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

Suggested Citation

Sollberger, Silja and Bernauer, Thomas and Ehlert, Ulrike, Stress Influences Environmental Donation Behavior in Men (January 1, 2016). Psychoneuroendocrinology 63: 311–319. Available at SSRN:

Silja Sollberger (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

Thomas Bernauer

ETH Zurich ( email )

Center for Comparative and International Studies
Building IFW, office 45.1, Haldeneggsteig 4
Zurich 8092, 8092
+41 44 632 6466 (Phone)
+41 44 632 1289 (Fax)


Ulrike Ehlert

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics