University of Melbourne Effects of Mood on Prosocial Behavior Summary This paper is the transcript of the oral presentation.
You need summarise the method, results and implications of the article ‘Too fatigued to care: Ego depletion, guilt, and prosocial behavior’:
1.Clear explanation of the background and aims of the study with a focus on how the study contributes to the current understanding of the topic
2.Brief overview of the method demonstrating understanding of factors that were controlled for in the design
3.Brief overview of the results and how they related to the hypotheses
4.Clear explanation of the interpretations of the research findings, highlighting any limitations in the study design
5.Clear explanation of how the findings add to our current theoretical and practical understanding of the topic
The topic is prosocial behavior of Personality and Social Psychology, The Effects of Mood on Prosocial Behavior.
Because this paper is the transcript of the oral presentation, the structure of this paper is much like an essay?
Introduction- an overview of the issue and the main ideas to be considered.
Body- the main ideas, reasoning, evidence and explanation provided.
Conclusion- a summary of what you have considered with repetition of key ideas. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 48 (2012) 11831186
Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/jesp
Too fatigued to care: Ego depletion, guilt, and prosocial behavior?
Hanyi Xu a,?, Laurent Bègue a, Brad J. Bushman b
University of Grenoble 2, France
The Ohio State University, USA & VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
a r t i c l e
i n f o
Received 19 December 2011
Revised 8 March 2012
Available online 16 March 2012
a b s t r a c t
Although guilt feels bad to the individual, it is good for society because guilty feelings can prompt people to
perform good deeds. This study tests whether fatigue decreases guilty feelings and subsequent prosocial behavior. Participants were randomly assigned to a depletion condition in which they watched a movie about
butchering animals for their meat or skin and were told to express no emotions, or to a no-depletion condition
in which they watched the same movie, but could express their emotions. Having participants play a game in
which another person was punished for their errors induced guilt. Finally, participants played a dictator game
in which they could leave money for the next participant. After the experiment, participants could also anonymously donate money to an anti-AIDS charity. The results showed that depleted participants felt less guilty
than did non-depleted participants, and the less guilty participants felt the less helpful they were.
© 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Successful guilt is the bane of society Publilius Syrus (Roman
author, 1st century B.C.)
For centuries guilt has got a bum rap. Guilt is an unpleasant
emotional feeling that helps us know we did something wrong
(Baumeister, Stillwell, & Heatherton, 1994). Although guilt feels bad
to the individual, it is actually quite good for others. You would not
want to have a boss, a lover, a roommate, or a business partner who
had no sense of guilt. Such people are called psychopaths, and they
are often a disaster to those around them (Hare, 1998). Psychopaths
exploit and harm others, help themselves at the expense of others,
and feel no remorse about those they harm. For example, serial killer
Ted Bundy was a psychopath. Bundy said he felt no guilt after killing
(at least) 30 people: Guilt doesn’t solve anything, really. It hurts
you I guess I am in the enviable position of not having to deal with
guilt. (Michaud & Aynesworth, 1989, p. 281).
Guilt is a moral emotion, and moral emotions can lead to prosocial
behaviors (Tangney, Stuewig, & Mashek, 2007). When people feel guilty
about something they have done, they often try harder to perform prosocial actions to wipe away the guilt (Xu, Begue, & Shankland, 2011).
? We would like to thank Andrew Hayes for his helpful comments on the analyses.
? Corresponding author at: LIP, University of Grenoble 2, 1251, Av. Centrale, BP47,
38040 Grenoble, France.
E-mail address: Hanyi.Xu@upmf-grenoble.fr (H. Xu).
0022-1031/$ see front matter © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
People who are feeling guilty may even help strangers to reduce their
guilt (Carlsmith & Gross, 1969).
There are a number of factors that can reduce guilt. Individual differences in the tendency to experience guilt, such as psychopathy, are dif?cult if not impossible to change (Hare, 1998). However, there are
theoretical reasons to believe that situational factors, which are much
easier to change, can also in?uence feelings of guilt. Moral, selfconscious emotions such as guilt involve controlled, conscious, higherorder cognitive processing, which are energy-taxing (Baumeister et
al., 1994). To experience guilt people re?ect on their behavior, reexamine the decision process, and draw factual or counterfactual conclusions about the incident. The appraisal and evaluation, along with the
guilt, will be stored in memory to guide future behavior (Baumeister,
Vohs, DeWall, & Zhang, 2007).
According to ego depletion theory, the energy needed to perform
higher-order cognitive processing is a limited resource that can be
exhausted, like a muscle (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Muraven, & Tice,
1998). Once energy has been expended performing one task, there
is little energy left to perform subsequent tasks. Hence, if people are
depleted of energy, it should be more dif?cult for them to re?ect on
their behavior, to reexamine the decision process, to draw factual or
counterfactual conclusions, and to store appraisal and evaluation information in memory. Thus, depletion should make it more dif?cult
to experience guilt, which should, in turn, decrease prosocial
Overview of present research
Previous research has already shown that ego depletion reduces
prosocial behavior (DeWall, Baumeister, Gailliot, & Maner, 2008).
H. Xu et al. / Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 48 (2012) 11831186
No research, however, has tested whether ego depletion can also reduce feelings of guilt. The present research ?lls this important gap
in the literature. Moreover, the present study uses an implicit measure of guilt because people may be reluctant to admit their wrongdoings. The present research also tests whether guilt mediates the link
between ego depletion and prosocial behavior. This is a major step
forward from previous research because it offers one possible explanation of why ego depletion decreases helping.
In the present study, participants were randomly assigned to depletion or no-depletion conditions. Participants in the depletion condition watched a short movie about butchering animals for their
meat or skin and were told to express no emotions. Participants in
the no-depletion condition watched the same movie, but were free
to express their emotions. Next, they were induced to feel guilty by
playing a game in which another person was punished with blasts
of loud, unpleasant noise for the errors they made in the game. Finally, participants played a dictator game in which they could leave
some amount of money to the next participant (Bolton, Katok, &
Zwick, 1998). As they exited the experiment, they could also anonymously donate money to an anti-AIDS charity. The amount of
money given to the next participant and the amount of money donated to charity were used to measure prosocial behavior. We hypothesized that ego depletion would reduce guilt, and the less guilty
participants felt the less helpful they would be.
Participants were 47 adult patrons at a French municipal library
(51% female; Mage = 26.3, SD = 13.8) who were paid 10 ($14).
The present research used a guilt-inducing procedure in which
participants accidentally harmed another person. Participants completed the game of illusive pictures, in which they saw 10 visually
illusive pictures, each displayed for 5 s, and had to determine whether the picture contained 17, 19, or 21 faces (Fig. 1). Because it was impossible to identify all the hidden faces in 5 s, participants had to
guess. Participants were told that the next participant in the study
would receive a 5-second blast of 100-decibel unpleasant noise
(about the same level as a ?re or smoke alarm) for each error made.
Participants were told they had made 9 errors, although their predecessor had only made 5 errors. Thus, participants received only 5
noise blasts, but the next participants in the study would receive almost twice as many noise blasts9. Similar procedures have been
successful to induce guilt. In one study (Nelissen & Zeelenberg,
2009), for example, participants were asked to look at a visual stimulus consisting of many circles and dots. They estimated the number of
dots within three seconds, which was impossible to determine. They
were told that their correct answers would earn points for another
participant. Participants who were told they only got 2 out of 10 estimations correct felt guiltier than did participants who were told they
got 8 of 10 their estimations correct. In another study (Darlington &
Macker, 1966), participants played an unsolvable game and were
led to believe that they failed. Those who were told before the game
that their success would earn points for the confederate’s examination score in a psychology course felt more guilt and were more willing to donate blood to a hospital than those who were told that the
confederate would not earn points.
Next, participants completed an explicit measure of guiltthe 5item (e.g. I feel bad about something I have done.) guilt subscale
of the State Guilt and Shame Scale (Marschall, Saftner, & Tangney,
1994; Cronbach ? = .87). They also completed an implicit measure
of guiltthe Implicit Association Test (IAT; Greenwald, McGhee, &
Participants were tested individually on a computer. They were
told that the researchers were studying short-term memory and
task performance. To measure their current perceived state of fatigue,
they rated two items: (1) Right now I have a lot of energy (reverse
scored), and (2) Right now I feel tired (1 = totally disagree, 5 = totally agree; Cronbach ? = .89).
Next, we used an affect regulation task that has been repeatedly
employed in previous research (e.g., Baumeister et al., 1998). Participants watched a 10-minute movie clip about butchering animals for
their meat or skin. They were randomly told to suppress their emotions and keep their expressions neutral (depleted condition), or to
express any emotions they felt (non-depleted condition). Participants
were told that their reactions would be videotaped to see whether
that complied with instructionsall did.
Immediately after the depletion manipulation, participants completed a measure of current mood valencethe Positive and Negative
Affect Schedule (Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988). This scale contains
10 negative items (afraid, ashamed, distressed, guilty, hostile, irritable,
jittery, nervous, scared, upset; Cronbach ? = .87), and 10 positive
items (active, alert, attentive, determined, excited, enthusiastic, inspired,
interested, proud, strong; Cronbach ? = .82).
Next, participants completed three manipulation check items:
(1) Right now I feel tired, (2) Watching the video took a lot of
my energy, and (3) The instructions of the video were hard to follow (1 = totally disagree, 5 = totally agree; Cronbach ? = .85).
To measure ego depletion, participants also completed a 50-trial
Stroop test, which required them to say the ink color, ignoring what
the word said (e.g., if the word RED is printed in blue ink, the participant should say BLUE). The Stroop test has been successfully used
to measure ego depletion in other studies (e.g., Hagger, Wood, Stiff,
& Chatzisarantis, 2010).
Fig. 1. An example of an illusive picture.
H. Xu et al. / Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 48 (2012) 11831186
Schwartz, 1998). The IAT requires participants to quickly categorize
two target concepts paired with two category attributes; faster reaction times are interpreted as strong associations between the pairing
in memory. In the present study, the target concepts I versus
others were paired with the attributes guilty (e.g., guilty, blameworthy) versus innocent (e.g., innocent, irreproachable).
To measure prosocial behavior, participants played the role of a
dictator who assigned some fraction of 10 to the next participant,
who would have to accept the allocation (Bolton et al., 1998). The experimenter then left the room. Upon returning, the experimenter
handed the participant an envelope containing 2, the amount the
previous participant had ostensibly left for them on the dictator
game. The experimenter also casually mentioned that the lab was
raising money for an anti-AIDS charity, and they could leave money
in a donation box if they wished. (The money left was donated to
charity.) The experimenter left the room again.
A debrie?ng followed, which included a probe for suspicion. No
participants expressed suspicion regarding the purpose of the study.
Age and sex differences
Because no effects were found for participant sex or age, these variables were excluded from the analyses.
Fatigue at baseline
As expected, fatigue scores did not differ between depleted and
non-depleted participants before watching the movie, M = 5.54,
SD = 1.86 and M = 4.74, SD = 1.84, respectively, F(1,45) = 2.21,
p = .15. Thus, random assignment to conditions was successful.
Fatigue following movie
As expected, depleted participants felt more fatigued after watching
the movie than did non-depleted participants, M = 9.17, SD= 3.17 and
M = 6.48, SD= 2.27, respectively, F(1,45) = 25.20, p b .001, d = 1.50.
Thus, the ego depletion manipulation was successful.
Positive and negative affect
We also examined the effects of our depletion manipulation on
positive and negative affective. As expected, there was no effect of
ego depletion on positive or negative affect, Fs(1,45) = 0.064 and
0.020, respectively, ps > .80. Furthermore, the item guilt in PANAS
did not differ between the depletion and no depletion conditions,
F(1,45) = 0.031, p = .86, which showed that the ego depletion manipulation did not affect guilt levels. In addition, positive and negative affect were not signi?cantly correlated with any of the dependent
measures, ps > .12. Furthermore, when positive and negative affect
were included as covariates in the analyses, they were not signi?cant,
ps > .17. Thus, our effects cannot be attributed to mood.
Stroop test performance
As expected, depleted participants took longer to complete the
Stroop test and made more errors than did non-depleted participants,
Time: M = 710.78 s, SD= 272.60 and M = 538.65 s, SD= 209.72, respectively, F(1,45) = 5.85, p b .02, d = 0.67; Errors: M = 5.99, SD= 6.40
and M = 2.78, SD= 3.47, respectively, F(1,45) = 4.49, p b .04, d = 0.60.
Thus, the depletion manipulation reduced self-control.
As expected, depleted participants reported feeling less guilty
than did non-depleted participants, M = 8.13, SD = 2.82 and
M = 11.09, SD = 5.27, respectively, F(1,45) = 5.84, p b .02, d = 0.67.
Before analyzing IAT scores we ?rst discarded reaction time latencies less than 100 ms and greater than 10,000 ms (see Greenwald,
Nosek, & Banaji, 2003). We analyzed D-scores, which were computed
as the difference in average response latency between the IAT’s two
combined tasks (i.e., I + guilty vs. others + innocent and I + innocent
vs. others + guilty), divided by the standard deviation of response latencies in those two combined tasks. Lower D-scores show stronger
associations between I and guilty. As expected, non-depleted participants had lower implicit guilt levels than did depleted participants, M = ?0.39, SD= 0.39 and M = ?0.09, SD= 0.38, respectively,
F(1,45) = 8.18, p = .006. d = 0.85.
Dictator game contributions
As expected, depleted participants left 61.7% less money for the
next study participant in the dictator game than did non-depleted
participants, M = 1.83, SD = 2.55 and M = 4.78, SD = 3.86, respectively, F(1,45) = 9.63, p b .003, d = 0.83.
As expected, depleted participants donated 84.6% less money to
the anti-AIDS charity than did non-depleted participants, M = 0.38,
SD = 0.58 and M = 2.48, SD = 3.04, F(1,45) = 11.06, p b .002,
d = 0.88.
Mediating effects of guilt on the link between depletion and prosocial
Structural Equation Model analysis was used to test whether guilt
(latent variable consisting of explicit and implicit guilt) mediates the
link between ego depletion (depleted = 1, non-depleted = 0) and
prosocial behavior (latent variable consisting of dictator game contributions and charitable donations). The model ?t indices were very
good, ? 2(3, N = 47) = 2.04, p > .56, RMSEA = .01, NNFI = 1.09, CFI = .92
(Fig. 2). As expected, the indirect effect of ego depletion on helping
was signi?cant, 95% bootstrap con?dence interval = ?.49 to ?.11,
which excludes the value 0 (Preacher & Hayes, 2004). This analysis
helps explain why ego depletion reduces prosocial behaviorby reducing guilt.
The present research makes at least two signi?cant contributions
to the literature. First, it shows for the ?rst time the negative effect
of ego depletion on a moral, self-conscious emotionguilt. Depleted
participants felt less guilt compared with no-depleted participants,
even with an implicit measure of guilt (i.e., IAT). This ?nding is important because it shows that certain moral, self-conscious emotions
can be manipulated due to their dependence on the necessary cognitive resources and mental energy to arouse them. Second, it shows
that guilt mediates the link between ego depletion and prosocial behavior. Previous research found that ego depletion reduces helping
(DeWall et al., 2008), but our ?ndings offer a causal mechanism to explain this effect. Ego depletion decreases prosocial behavior indirectly
by reducing feelings of guilt. Our meditational analysis showed that
ego depletion had a signi?cant negative indirect effect on prosocial
behavior. Depleted participants felt less guilty than non-depleted participants, and the less guilt participants felt, the less money they gave
to another participant on the dictator game, and the less money they
donated to charity.
One limitation of our study is that we did not include a no-guilt
condition. Past research has shown that ego depletion decreases prosocial behavior (DeWall et al., 2008) and increases cheating (Mead,
Baumeister, Gino, Schweitzer, & Ariely, 2009). It is plausible that depleted people have dif?culty dealing with con?icts between moral
standards and self interest, care less about impression management,
H. Xu et al. / Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 48 (2012) 11831186
Fig. 2. Model testing the mediating effect of guilt on the link between ego depletion and prosocial behavior. Oval shapes indicate latent concepts; rectangular shapes indicate observed concepts. The indirect effect of ego depletion on helping was signi?cant, 95% bootstrap con?dence interval = ?.49 to ?.11, which excludes the value 0 (Preacher & Hayes,
2004). *p b .05.
and are more apathetic. Our study cannot exclude these possibilities.
This is an interesting topic for future research.
Another limitation is that our guilt manipulation might not be
considered wrong by participants because they did not intentionally try to make errors. Perhaps wrongness is not the only factor that
induces guilt. For example, researchers have documented survivor
guilt, wherein people feel guilty because they survived an event that
killed others (e.g., Friedman, 1981). Another example is overrewarded guilt, wherein people feel guilty about receiving more reward
than they think they deserve (Baumeister et al., 1994). Perhaps participants in our study felt guilty simply because they were better off
than their partner. Moreover, it is dif?cult in a laboratory setting to
induce people to intentionally harm others. Future research can explore whether similar results are obtained when guilt is induced in
other ways, such as in win or die competitions or in moral
In summary, on the basis of our ?ndings, we would like to modify
Syrus’ statement at the beginning of this article: Successful guilt is
the blessing of society (rather than the bane of society) because it
can increase prosocial behavior.
Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, E., Muraven, M., & Tice, D. M. (1998). Ego depletion: Is
the active self a limited resource? Journal of Pers…
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