Undergraduate Honors Theses


The Effects of Attention and Emotion on Prosocial Behavior

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Leaf Van Boven

Second Advisor

Eric Pedersen

Third Advisor

Akira Miyake

Fourth Advisor

Lawrence Williams


People must interact with others and navigate a social world daily. Yet, while many studies have explored the basic mechanisms that dictate the interactions between attention, emotion, and attitudes, few have explored how these cognitive processes influence daily human interactions. The present study sought to shed light on the effect attention has on prosocial behavior by manipulating attention to faces with a rotation paradigm, we hypothesized that participants would on average give more to images of faces that rotated 50% of the time than images of faces that rotated 16.6% of the time. Additionally, we posited that participants would form more favorable attitudes towards the high rotation faces over low rotation races, and these heightened attitudes would act as a mediator for giving behavior. Participants (N = 114) were undergraduate students from the University of Colorado Boulder. Our results supported that participants do on average give more to the high rotation images over low rotation images. However, no mediating effects were found for general attitudes on giving behavior. Additionally, we found supporting evidence that Query Theory partially explained differences in giving behavior towards high versus low rotation images. Our findings suggest a nuanced relationship between attention, emotion, attitudes, and prosocial behavior. Further research is needed on attention and prosocial behavior to further shed light on this topic.

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