Abstract construals make the emotional rewards of prosocial behavior more salient

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Abstract construals make the emotional rewards of prosocial behavior more salient
The Journal of Positive Psychology

Although previous research has shown that helping others leads to higher happiness than helping oneself, people frequently predict that self-serving behavior will make them happier than prosocial behavior. Here, we explore whether abstract construal – thinking about an event from a higher level, distanced perspective – influences predictions about how rewarding prosocial actions will be for people’s own well-being. In Experiment 1, Hurricane Katrina volunteers who adopted an abstract construal predicted that their efforts would be more rewarding than did volunteers who adopted a concrete construal. Experiment 2 provided a conceptual replication with a hypothetical donation scenario; people who adopted an abstract rather than concrete construal predicted that giving more money would be more rewarding than giving less. These findings suggest that people are more likely to appreciate the emotional benefits of prosocial actions when they adopt high-level construals than when they adopt low-level construals.

Citation: 
The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2014

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