Evidence of an Alternative Currency for Altruism in Laboratory-Based Experiments


  • Daniel Farrelly
  • Emma Moan
  • Kristi White
  • Sarah Young


Research shows that altruistic behaviours arise in varying social situations in line with different theories of causes of such behaviours. However most research uses financial costs only, which makes our understanding of altruism currently limited. This study presents findings of three experiments that use a novel and simple laboratory-based task that measures altruism based on the amount of time participants are willing to spend as a cost to help others. This task assessed two specific theories; altruistic punishment (Experiments 1 & 2) and empathy-altruism (Experiment 3). All experiments showed that the task was successful, as participants were more likely to altruistically punish violators of social contracts than other scenarios (Experiments 1 and 2), and also incur more costs to behave altruistically towards others when feeling empathic than different emotional states (Experiment 3). These results provide clear support for the use and value of this novel task in future research.