recent study examined the effects of rational (“brain”) and affective
(“heart”) decision modes, and individual differences in processing
styles on prosocial behaviors, finding that affective decision mode
increased prosocial behaviors. Processing style (i.e., intuitive vs.
deliberative processing) did not predict prosocial behaviors or interact
with decision mode. This research was published in the journal Judgment and Decision Making.
According to the Social Heuristics Hypothesis,
intuition promotes cooperation. This hypothesis suggests that intuitive
responding in social dilemmas is linked to prosocial behaviors, while
deliberation is associated with self-interest. However, empirical
evidence has been mixed.
people to rely on affect or reason has proven effective in altering
cooperative behaviors in social dilemmas, while time pressure and
cognitive load have not influenced prosocial behaviors. Further, there
are individual differences in how much people prefer to rely on
intuition and deliberation when making decisions. In this work, Manja
Gärtner and colleagues provide “an experimental test of how decision
mode and individual differences in processing styles jointly affect
prosocial behavior in a range of incentivized social dilemmas using a
large, diverse sample of the Swedish population.”
study included a total of 1828 participants who were representative of
the Swedish population in terms of sociodemographic characteristics
(e.g., age, gender, geographical regions). Participants were randomly
assigned to one of three groups; a baseline (or control) group, and two
treatment groups that instructed participants to make their decisions
based on affect or reason. For example, in the affect condition,
participants were instructed: “In this part of the experiment, please
make your decisions by relying on your heart, rather than your brain.”
And vice versa for the reason condition. Participants in the control
group received no instructions.
manipulation check items assessed how much participants believed “they
relied on deliberation, intuition, and emotions as well as how much the
instructions made them think more about their decisions.” Participants
also responded to the jellybean task, which has previously been
associated with deliberative and intuitive processing style. It involves
making a hypothetical decision between a large bowl containing 100
jellybeans and a small bowl containing 10 jellybeans.
are told to imagine that they can draw one jellybean from behind a
screen. “The two bowls are depicted graphically with a label below the
large bowl saying ‘9% colored jellybeans’ and below the small bowl
saying ‘10% colored jellybeans’.” The rational choice is to draw from
the small bowl given it contains a higher percentage of colored
jellybeans, while the intuitive choice is to draw from the large bowl as
it contains a higher number of colored jellybeans.
behaviors were measured using a series of incentivized choices
presented in random order, including cooperation in the prisoner’s
dilemma game and the public goods game, trust and trustworthiness in the
trust game, giving in the dictator game played with another individual,
and giving in the dictator game played with a charity.
and colleagues found a positive effect of inducing affect (rather than
reason) by directly manipulating instructions of prosocial behavior in
the prisoner’s dilemma game, trust game, dictator game, and charitable
giving. The authors write, “the negative effect of inducing reason on
prosocial behavior makes up a larger share of the total effect of the
affect/reason-distinction than the positive effect of inducing emotion.”
They also note that they should find an interaction between decision
mode and individual differences if those who rely on intuition react
differently to affect- and reason- inducing instructions compared to
those who rely on deliberation. However, the researchers observed no
systematic interaction between decision mode and individual differences.
behaviors are key to addressing numerous issues around the globe,
including poverty, health, environmental preservation, and the division
of limited resources. The authors conclude, “Understanding the mechanism
driving prosocial behavior is thus a central challenge. Here we
demonstrate that an induced affective decision mode induced, but not
individual differences in affective processing style, may increase
The study, “Affect and prosocial behavior: The role of decision mode and individual processing style”, was authored by Manja Gärtner, David Andersson, Daniel Västfjäll, and Gustav Tinghög.