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Awe and prosocial tendency

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Feelings of positive awe have been hypothesized to promote prosocial behaviors in Western contexts. However, the emergent scientific study of awe rarely emphasizes the downstream effect of negative awe on prosocial tendency. In this study, we aimed to explore the association between awe and prosocial tendency across three studies systematically. First, we examined whether dispositional awe is associated with prosocial tendencies (Study 1), we administered the Dispositional Positive Emotion Scale (DPES) and Prosocial Tendencies Measures (PTM), to a nonclinical sample of Chinese college students (N = 269). Second, in the two follow-up studies, we tested the causal role of momentary feeling of different variants of awe (positive and negative awe) on prosocial tendencies. We used video clips to induce the emotion of positive and negative awe. After inducing awe, we first examined participants’ emotional states using the Emotional Self-rating Scale, and then evaluated their behavior tendency in a specified scenario involving donations of money (Study 2), and time (Study 3). Results demonstrated that individuals higher in dispositional awe exhibited more prosocial tendency (Study 1). Participants in both positive and negative awe conditions wanted to donate more money than in the neutral condition (Study 2). Experimentally inducing positive awe rather than negative awe caused individuals to volunteer more time for strangers (Study 3). Taken together, these results indicate that awe does not make people more prosocial in general but suggest that positive and negative awe have their own specific paths to greater prosociality.

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This study was funded by the Key Research of Humanities and Social Science of Ministry of Education (16JJD190002) and Research of psychological mechanism and cultivation of firm belief in communism in adolescents (2018GZMZYB10).

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GF and CJ contributed to the experimental design, data analysis, and writing of the initial manuscript. CO contributed to data analysis. LL and ZY coordinated data collection and contributed to translation. HY and YH contributed to write of the ultimate manuscript. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.

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Correspondence to Jun Chen.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Guan, F., Chen, J., Chen, O. et al. Awe and prosocial tendency. Curr Psychol 38, 1033–1041 (2019).

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