The asymmetric effect of narratives on prosocial behavior

Refereed Journal
Refereed Journal

The asymmetric effect of narratives on prosocial behavior

We study how positive narratives (stories in favor of a prosocial action) and negative narratives (stories in favor of a selfish action) influence prosocial behavior in a series of lab and online experiments with more than 1500 subjects. We find that, both positive and negative narratives are effective at changing how actions are perceived. However, while positive narratives increase prosocial behavior, negative narratives do not move aggregate behavior and — if anything — lead to slightly more prosocial behavior. Our results indicate that this may be due to the fact that when following a negative narrative an individual is viewed as influenceable — something that appears to be undesirable. Taken together, our study suggests that positive and negative narratives are not just the flip sides of the same coin.

Hillenbrand, Adrian and Eugenio Verrina (2022), The asymmetric effect of narratives on prosocial behavior, Games and Economic Behavior 135 , 241-270

Authors Adrian Hillenbrand // Eugenio Verrina