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Is the warm glow actually warm?: an experimental investigation into the nature and determinants of warm glow feelings


Bianchi, Robin T; Cova, Florian; Tieffenbach, Emma (2023). Is the warm glow actually warm?: an experimental investigation into the nature and determinants of warm glow feelings. International Journal of Wellbeing, 13(3):1-23.

Abstract

Giving money to others feels good. In the past years, this claim has received strong empirical support from psychology and neuroscience. It is now standard to use the label ‘warm glow feelings’ to refer to the pleasure people take from giving, and many explanations of apparently altruistic behavior appeal to these internal rewards. But what exactly are warm glow feelings? Why do people experience them? In order to further our understanding of the phenomenon, we ran two studies: a recall task in which participants were asked to remember a donation they made, and a donation task in which participants were given the opportunity to make a donation before reporting their affective states. In both studies, correlational and experimental evidence converge towards the conclusion that, if the nature of the warm glow is straightforward, its source is multifaceted. Regarding the nature of ‘warm glow’, the pleasure people took in giving was mainly predicted by one particular positive emotion (‘joyful feelings’) and was indeed described by participants as a ‘warm’ sensation. Regarding the underlying psychological mechanisms, ‘warm glow’ feelings were elicited both by positive appraisals regarding the donor’s moral character and positive appraisals regarding the actual impact of the donor’s donation on the welfare of others. We discuss the implications of these findings for the role of positive emotions in explaining why people give.

Abstract

Giving money to others feels good. In the past years, this claim has received strong empirical support from psychology and neuroscience. It is now standard to use the label ‘warm glow feelings’ to refer to the pleasure people take from giving, and many explanations of apparently altruistic behavior appeal to these internal rewards. But what exactly are warm glow feelings? Why do people experience them? In order to further our understanding of the phenomenon, we ran two studies: a recall task in which participants were asked to remember a donation they made, and a donation task in which participants were given the opportunity to make a donation before reporting their affective states. In both studies, correlational and experimental evidence converge towards the conclusion that, if the nature of the warm glow is straightforward, its source is multifaceted. Regarding the nature of ‘warm glow’, the pleasure people took in giving was mainly predicted by one particular positive emotion (‘joyful feelings’) and was indeed described by participants as a ‘warm’ sensation. Regarding the underlying psychological mechanisms, ‘warm glow’ feelings were elicited both by positive appraisals regarding the donor’s moral character and positive appraisals regarding the actual impact of the donor’s donation on the welfare of others. We discuss the implications of these findings for the role of positive emotions in explaining why people give.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:01 Faculty of Theology and the Study of Religion > Center for Ethics
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Philosophy
Dewey Decimal Classification:100 Philosophy
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Social Psychology
Social Sciences & Humanities > Applied Psychology
Social Sciences & Humanities > Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Warm glow, Charity, Donation, Giving, Prosocial spending, Emotions
Language:English
Date:3 October 2023
Deposited On:12 Jan 2024 17:38
Last Modified:12 Feb 2024 10:15
Publisher:International Journal of Wellbeing
ISSN:1179-8602
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.5502/ijw.v13i3.2565
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)