“I Just Donated, and You Should Too!”: Examining the Effects of Moral Emotions on Donation-Related Prosocial Behavior on Instagram

Date of Award

Spring 5-8-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Leah Dickens


Research has shown that certain moral emotions, namely moral elevation and moral outrage, can predict prosocial behavior after viewing prosocial media content online (Koenig & McLaughlin, 2018). However, no study has examined if viewing prosocial media content on Instagram leads to increased prosocial behavior mediated by the experience of these two emotions, nor how changing the tone/focus of Instagram posts featured on Instagram stories affects experiences of moral emotions and subsequent prosocial behavior. In this study, all participants (N = 167) viewed the same baseline Instagram story featuring a donation-seeking post (i.e., no identifiable victim) before being shown one of three versions (help-focused, blame-focused, control) of an Instagram story asking for donations to help an identifiable victim get an abortion. Participants reported emotional reactions to each post, as well as related prosocial behavior. We predicted that the help-focused and blame-focused conditions would lead to more prosocial behavior than the control, mediated by moral elevation and moral outrage respectively; we also predicted that more prosocial behavior would occur from the manipulated Instagram story than from the baseline Instagram story, which would be evidenced by emotion change. We did not find significant differences in prosocial behavior by condition. However, there was emotion change between the baseline and manipulated Instagram stories, with more moral outrage and moral elevation associated with the manipulated Instagram story. There was also a positive correlation between moral elevation and willingness to repost/donate. The implications of these findings are further discussed in the paper.

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