Reflecting on acts of kindness toward the self: Emotions generosity and the role of social norms

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Reflecting on acts of kindness toward the self: Emotions generosity and the role of social norms

How do people respond in terms of emotion and behavior when prompted to recall an act of kindness from another person? As shown in two studies of undergraduates responses differ based on whether the kindness is seen as normative – that is whether it follows social norms related to the relational context and one’s past behavior. On the whole normative kindnesses were linked with more positive emotion and less negative emotion than non-normative kindnesses. Those asked to recall normative kindnesses also donated more money to charity than those who recalled non-normative kindnesses an effect partly mediated by the greater positivity of the normative stories (Study 2). These results suggest that if the goal is to increase mood or generosity recalling normative kindnesses is a safer strategy than recalling non-normative kindnesses. Yet some results also supported an outgroup salience hypothesis in which recalling non-normative kindnesses increased generous motives toward strangers and enemies.

Citation: 
The Journal of Positive Psychology Vol. 7, No. 1, 2012, 45–56

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