ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2020, Vol. 52 ›› Issue (12): 1421-1435.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2020.01421

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Effect of power on conspicuous prosocial behavior

YAO Qi1, WU Zhangjian1(), ZHANG Changqing2, FU Guoqun3   

  1. 1 School of Economics and Management, Chongqing Jiaotong University, Chongqing 400074, China
    2 School of Economics and Business Administration, Chongqing University, Chongqing 400044, China
    3 Guanghua School of Management, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
  • Received:2019-12-02 Published:2020-12-25 Online:2020-10-27
  • Contact: WU Zhangjian
  • Supported by:
    General Program of National Natural Science Foundation of China(71772021);key project of NSFC(71632001);Humanities and Social Sciences Planning Project of Ministry of Education(17YJA630122);science and technology project of Chongqing(cstc2016jcyja01073)


Conspicuous prosocial behavior refers to prosocial behaviors that are publicly displayed to enhance the image of the helper in the eyes of others. The existing researches suggest that sense of power simultaneously generates self-interested behaviors and inhibits individual prosocial behavior. However, an increased number of recent researches indicate that several personal traits and environmental factors encourage individuals with power to conduct more prosocial behaviors. Moreover, few researches have been conducted to explore the relationship between power and conspicuous prosocial behavior. The present study proposes that high-power-sense (vs. low-power-sense) individuals are more willing to engage in conspicuous prosocial behaviors with self-presentation as a mediating variable.
Five experiments (Experiments 1, 2a, 2b, 3, and 4) were performed to test the hypotheses. Experiments 1 and 3 explored the relationship between power and conspicuous prosocial behaviors using the class role imagination task to manipulate sense of power. Participants of Experiment 1 (139 adults, 50 men) were provided with information about two backpacks. Participants of Experiment 3 (237 adults, 121 men) were shown an advertisement. Participants of Experiment 2a (147 adults, 75 men) were high and low power-sense individuals who were instructed to report donation willingness and amount under two conditions, namely, public acknowledgment and control. Experiment 2b was a field study in which participants (210 adults, 93 men) who completed a recall task decided whether to write down their e-mail after perusing the information about a public service advertisement. Lastly, Experiment 4 examined the mediating role of self-presentation, and 117 adults were asked to indicate their sense of power, self-presentation motivation, and willingness to participate in blatant benevolence by a random sequence.
Experiment 1 indicated that the high-power-sense (vs. low-power-sense) individuals tended to buy conspicuous green products with clear environmental labels. Experiment 2a demonstrated that individuals with a high sense of power displayed higher levels of willingness to donate and donate more compared with the powerless and under the public acknowledgment condition. Experiment 2b revealed that people with a high (vs. low) sense of power tended to write down their e-mail under the public acknowledgment condition. Experiment 3 provided evidence that a strongly conspicuous inclination among high-power-sense participants was not attributed to a general tendency to show off when engaging in prosocial behaviors. Finally, Experiment 4 not only replicated the effect of power on conspicuous prosocial behaviors, but also established the mediating role of self-presentation.
The current study demonstrates the relationship between power and conspicuous prosocial behaviors. That is, individuals with high (vs. low) power are more willing to engage in conspicuous prosocial behaviors with self-presentation as a mediating factor. The findings of this work have important practical significance for marketing managers in terms of the utilization of sense of power to effectively guide individuals to engage in prosocial behaviors.

Key words: sense of power, conspicuous prosocial behaviors, public acknowledgement, self-presentation