Automatic Influences of Priming on Prosocial Behavior

Costanza Scaffidi Abbate, Stefano Ruggieri, Stefano Boca


Literature on the automaticity of social behavior indicates that, in some circumstances, priming a concept automatically activates related behavioral schemas. Previous research studies have used priming techniques to increase willingness to help, but most of these have simply measured intention to engage in prosocial behavior rather than real helping behavior. Two different studies investigated the effect of priming the concept of prosocial behavior on real helping behavior. After priming prosociality through a scrambled sentences test, participants were shown to increase their donation rate after a direct request coming from an experimenter's confederate (Study 1) and to spontaneously help to a greater extent a girl whose books had fallen on the floor (Study 2). The implications of this automatic behavior priming effect are discussed within the theoretical framework of the automatic effect of social perception on prosocial behavior.


prosocial behavior; automaticity; priming; helping; situational features

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