Does observability affect prosociality?

Bradley, Alex and Lawrence, Claire and Ferguson, Eamonn (2018) Does observability affect prosociality? Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 285 (1875). 20180116/1-20180116/8. ISSN 1471-2954 (In Press)

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The observation of behaviour is a key theoretical parameter underlying a number of models of prosociality. However, the empirical findings showing the effect of observability on prosociality are mixed. In this meta-analysis, we explore the boundary conditions that may account for this variability, by exploring key theoretical and methodological moderators of this link. We identified 117 papers yielding 134 study level effects (Total N = 788, 164) and found a small but statistically significant, positive association between observability and prosociality (r = .141, 95% CI = .106, .175). Moderator analysis showed that observability produced stronger effects on prosociality (1) in the presence of passive observers (i.e., people whose role was to only observe participants) vs perceptions of being watched, (2) when participants decisions were consequential (vs non-consequential), (3) when the studies were performed in the laboratory (as opposed to in the field/online), (4) when studies used repeated measures (instead of single games) and (5) when studies involved social dilemmas (instead of bargaining games). These effects show the conditions under which observability effects on prosociality will be maximally observed. We describe the theoretical and practical significance of 14 these results.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Visibility, Prosocial, Cost Signalling Theory, Indirect Reciprocity, Competitive Altruism
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Science > School of Psychology
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Depositing User: Eprints, Support
Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2018 12:37
Last Modified: 08 May 2020 12:00

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