Altruism as hedonism: A social development perspective on the relationship of negative mood state and helping

Robert B. Cialdini, Douglas T. Kenrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

247 Scopus citations


Attempted to reconcile the conflicting data on the relationship of negative mood state to altruism. Whereas some studies have shown that negative mood leads to increases in altruistic action, others have shown the reverse. It was hypothesized that the inconsistency of these results was due to differences in the ages and consequent levels of socialization of the Ss employed in the earlier studies. In order to test the hypothesis, a total of 100 Ss from 3 age groups (6-8, 10-12, and 15-18 yrs) were asked to think of either depressing or neutral events and were subsequently given the opportunity to be privately generous. Consistent with predictions from the negative state relief model of altruism, the youngest, least socialized Ss were somewhat less generous in the negative mood condition, but this relationship progressively reversed itself until in the oldest, most socialized group, the negative mood Ss were significantly more generous than neutral mood controls. Data support a hedonistic conception of altruism that views adult benevolence as self-gratification. It is suggested that the reward character of benevolence derives from the socialization experience. (44 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)907-914
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 1976
Externally publishedYes


  • age &
  • level of socialization &
  • negative vs neutral mood states, altruistic behavior, 6-8 vs 10-12 vs 15-18 yr olds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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