DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2017.00393

Acta Psychologica Sinica (心理学报) 2017/49:3 PP.393-403

The effect of anger and sadness on prosocial decision making: The role of the interpersonal attribution of responsibility

Previous research suggested that emotions have an effect on prosocial decision making depending on the dimensions of emotional valence, little research has verified the role of specific emotions of the same valence. Drawing on the Appraisal-Tendency Framework (ATF), the present set of studies aimed to explore the carryover effect of two incidentally negative emotions, i.e. anger and sadness, on prosocial decision making and the role of the interpersonal attribution of responsibility in this effect.
We conducted two studies, where emotions were induced via the Autobiographical Emotional Memory Task (AEMT). Study 1 investigated the effects of anger and sadness on prosocial decision making with a between-subjects design. Participants were randomly assigned to angry, sad, or neutral conditions and were asked to indicate how much time they were willing to spend helping others. Study 2 explored whether the effects of anger and sadness on prosocial decision making depend on interpersonal attribution of responsibility. This study employed a 2 (emotions:anger/sadness)×3 (interpersonal attribution of responsibility:ambiguity/uncontrollable and external situation/controllable situation and recipient own) mixed design with emotions as a between-subjects variable. Participants were randomly assigned to angry or sad conditions. Similar to study 1, emotions were induced through AEMT. Interpersonal attribution of responsibility was manipulated by varying the information about the person who needs help. In the ambiguity condition, the reason that the person needs help is not clear; in the uncontrollable and external situation condition, the reason that the person needs help is due to uncontrollable external situation; in the controllable situation and recipient own condition, the person who is in need of help is responsible for such circumstance. Prosocial decision making was measured by the amount of money participants were willing to donate.
Across two studies we found that:(1) Participants in the sad condition were willing to spend more time and donate more money to others than their counterparts in the angry and neutral conditions. (2) Under the condition of ambiguous attribution of responsibility, participants who experienced sadness were more willing to help others compared to those in angry condition; in the uncontrollable and external situation conditions, and controllable situation and recipient own conditions, anger and sadness had similar effects on helping behavior. (3) In the sad condition, compared to ambiguous attribution of responsibility, participants were more willing to help when the responsibility was attributed to uncontrollable and external situation, whereas participants were less willing to help when the responsibility was attributed to the person who needs help. In the angry condition, participants were more willing to help when the responsibility was attributed to uncontrollable and external situation rather than when it was ambiguous or when the recipients were blamed.
We conclude that (a) Incidental emotions of the same valence have different effects of carrying over on prosocial decision making-sadness facilitates helping behavior while anger impedes prosocial decision making, and (b) Interpersonal attribution of responsibility contributes to such effect. Anger and sadness have opposing effects on prosocial decision making only when the interpersonal attribution of responsibility remains ambiguous. These findings have important implications for understanding the mechanism underlying the impacts of different incidental emotions of the same valence on prosocial decision making.

Key words:anger,sadness,prosocial decision making,interpersonal attribution of responsibility,incidental emotions

ReleaseDate:2017-04-10 17:47:51

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