Stress Influences Environmental Donation Behavior in Men
Psychoneuroendocrinology 63: 311–319
Posted: 4 Dec 2017 Last revised: 12 Dec 2017
Date Written: January 1, 2016
Stress has been found to have both positive and negative effects on prosocial behavior, suggesting the involvement of moderating factors such as context and underlying motives. In the present study, we investigated the conditions under which acute stress leads to an increase vs. decrease in environmental donation behavior as an indicator of prosocial behavior. In particular, we examined whether the effects of stress depended on preexisting pro-environmental orientation and stage of the donation decision (whether or not to donate vs. the amount to be donated). Male participants with either high (N=40) or low (N=39) pro-environmental orientation were randomly assigned to a social stress test or a control condition. Salivary cortisol was assessed repeatedly before and after stress induction. At the end of the experiment, all subjects were presented with an opportunity to donate a portion of their monetary compensation to a climate protection foundation. We found that stress significantly increased donation frequency, but only in subjects with low pro-environmental orientation. Congruously, their decision to donate was positively associated with cortisol response to the stress test and the emotion regulation strategy mood repair, as well as accompanied by an increase in subjective calmness. In contrast, among the participants who decided to donate, stress significantly reduced the donated amount of money, regardless of pro-environmental orientation. In conclusion, our findings suggest that acute stress might generally activate more self-serving motivations, such as making oneself feel better and securing one's own material interests. Importantly, however, a strong pro-environmental orientation partially prevented these effects.
Keywords: Cortisol, Donation, Pro-environmental behavior, Prosocial behavior, Stress, Trier Social Stress Test
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