WHEN LESS IS ENOUGH: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PROSOCIAL EFFORT AND MORAL CHARACTER JUDGMENTS
The amount of effort required to carry out a prosocial act (i.e., prosocial effort) can vary from minimal (e.g., handing a stranger the wallet she just dropped) to extreme (e.g., spending days tracking down the owner of a lost wallet). Does higher prosocial effort lead to higher moral character judgments? The goal of the current research is to characterize the relationship between prosocial effort and moral character judgments. We test three competing theoretical perspectives, which predict that this relationship is monotonically positive (the monotonic perspective), positive but plateaus at higher levels of prosocial effort (the diminishing-returns perspective), and positive at lower levels of prosocial effort but negative at higher levels of prosocial effort (the backlash perspective). Across four studies we find evidence for the diminishing-returns perspective: moral character judgments increase from lower to moderate prosocial effort and plateau at higher levels. Studies 1 and 2 test the relationship between prosocial effort and moral character judgments. Studies 3-4 replicate the effect across several prosocial domains and test potential mechanisms for the relationship. We discuss limitations and implications for research on effort and prosocial behavior.
effort; moral character; prosocial behavior
Industrial and Labor Relations
M.S., Industrial and Labor Relations
Master of Science
dissertation or thesis