Viral videos and virtue: Moral elevation inductions shift affect and interpersonal goals in daily life


Laboratory studies suggest that witnessing virtuous acts triggers moral elevation, an emotion characterized by feeling uplifted and increased prosocial motives. However, it remains unknown whether regular inductions can increase elevation and prosocial motives in daily life without being vulnerable to habituation or adaptation effects. Participants (total N = 181) were randomly assigned to elevating vs. neutral or amusing inductions (video or recall tasks) for seven days (Study 1), ten days (Study 2), or 12 days over one month (Study 3). Multilevel growth models showed that relative to comparison conditions, elevation inductions increased daily elevation, positive affect, and prosocial outcomes (compassionate goals and affiliation), and decreased self-protective motives (self-image goals). Adaptation effects occurred for immediate responses when exercises occurred daily, but not when spaced out over time, and not for outcomes measured later each day. Results suggest benefits of brief, regular elevation experiences and have implications for interventions targeting specific emotions.

The Journal of Positive Psychology
Adam P. McGuire
Adam P. McGuire
Assistant Professor of Psychology