Insights from sadness: A three-step model of the development of altruism as hedonism

Robert B. Cialdini, Donald J. Baumann, Douglas Kenrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


Research into the effects of sad mood on prosocial action is reviewed and is used as a vehicle for examining the transformation of altruism from a punishing to a gratifying event. A three-step model of the socialization of altruism as a reinforcer is proposed. The model argues for (a) an initial stage (presocialization) in which altruism occurs rarely among young children because of its punishing function, (b) a second stage (awareness of norms) in which altruism functions as a mechanism for the receipt of positive sanctions, and (c) a final stage (internalization) in which, by adulthood, altruism has acquired a gratifying function through its status as a conditioned reinforcer. Evidence for the functional equivalence of self-gratification and adult altruism is also presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-223
Number of pages17
JournalDevelopmental Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1981

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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