Promoting Third-Party Prosocial Behaviour: The Potential of Moral Emotions



High levels of poverty and inequality remain, with 10.7% of the world’s population still living under extreme poverty (The World Bank,, 2016). Yet many people remain as bystanders to these inequalities (Singer. The life you can save: Acting now to end world poverty. CPI Mackays, 2009). This global wealth anomaly highlights the need for research to understand effective strategies for mobilising people to want to help others. The authors consider and review the potential of moral emotions for promoting third-party intergroup prosociality. Drawing on the model of moral emotion prototypicality (Haidt, Handbook of affective sciences, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 852–870, 2003) and on their separate strands of research, it is proposed that moral elevation and moral outrage are particularly effective emotions for encouraging third-party group members to want to help disadvantaged group members. Drawing on the appraisal tendency framework (Horberg, Oveis, & Keltner, Emotion Review, 3, 237–244, 2011) the specific prosocial effects of moral elevation and moral outrage are considered in more detail. While elevation and outrage may both effectively promote prosocial responses, the appraisal tendency framework would suggest that their prosocial effects should be distinctive and nuanced. Empirical research is reviewed which indeed shows that elevation is more effective at promoting benevolence-oriented outcomes, while outrage is more effective at promoting justice-oriented outcomes. This chapter has clear and direct implications for the applied field. For example, while elevation-inducing and outrage-inducing stimuli may provide effective tools for promoting prosociality, they should be used appropriately. The authors close the chapter with a discussion of these applied implications.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of LincolnLincolnUK
  2. 2.Centre for the Study of Group Processes, School of PsychologyUniversity of KentCanterburyUK

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