Understanding how motives and emotions driving prosocial actions impact the moral assessment of good doers

ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Thibaut Arpinon and Angela Sutan
A recommendation of:

Revisiting the signal value of emotion in altruistic behavior: Replication and extensions Registered Report of Barasch et al. (2014) Studies 3 and 6


Submission: posted 23 November 2023
Recommendation: posted 26 March 2024, validated 27 March 2024
Cite this recommendation as:
Espinosa, R. (2024) Understanding how motives and emotions driving prosocial actions impact the moral assessment of good doers . Peer Community in Registered Reports, .


Pro-social actions are often driven by emotional factors. For instance, emotions have been shown to play a decisive role in the way we judge the fairness of a situation (affect-as-information theory: e.g., Clore et al., 2001; Storbeck and Clore, 2008), and, thus, how we make decisions. Specific emotions like anger have also been shown to stimulate the motivation to fight injustice (Lerner et al., 2015). At the individual level, people might undertake altruistic actions as a way to relieve themselves from these negative emotions (what Cialdini (1991) calls ‘reflexive distress’) but also because these actions are expected by the social norms (‘normative distress’). Indeed, pro-social actions are usually taken in social contexts, and the perception of one’s behavior by third parties might hinder or facilitate the adoption of pro-social behaviors. Understanding the determinants of the perception of altruistic behaviors is thus a key research question to support pro-social actions in collective settings.
In the current study, Woo and Feldman (2024) aim to replicate the seminal work of Barasch et al. (2014), who showed that third parties hold more favorable views of agents undertaking pro-social actions when the latter are motivated by emotions. More precisely, the authors aim to replicate two studies of the original work by conducting a well-powered online experiment (US participants, Prolific, N=1,164). First, they will investigate whether donors who exhibit higher distress regarding the suffering of others are perceived as more moral and authentically concerned for others. Second, they will analyze whether individuals who expect material or reputational benefits from their altruistic deeds are perceived by third parties as less moral than those who act for emotional reasons. In addition to these two replication objectives, the authors propose extensions with pre-registered hypotheses that are inspired by Study 2 from the original work. They seek to investigate whether people are seen as more other-focused when they undertake a prosocial action (donation) and under different expected rewards (material, reputational, emotional benefits).
The Stage 1 manuscript was evaluated by two external reviewers and the recommender. Based on detailed responses to the reviewers' and the recommender’s comments, the recommender judged that the manuscript met the Stage 1 criteria and therefore awarded in-principle acceptance (IPA).
URL to the preregistered Stage 1 protocol:

Level of bias control achieved: Level 6. No part of the data or evidence that will be used to answer the research question yet exists and no part will be generated until after IPA.
List of eligible PCI RR-friendly journals:


1. Barasch, A., Levine, E. E., Berman, J. Z., & Small, D. A. (2014). Selfish or selfless? On the signal value of emotion in altruistic behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 107, 393-413.
2. Cialdini, R. B. (1991). Altruism or egoism? That is (still) the question. Psychological Inquiry, 2, 124-126.
3. Clore, G. L., Gasper, K., Garvin, E., & Forgas, J. P. (2001). Handbook of Affect and Social Cognition.
4. Lerner, J. S., Li, Y., Valdesolo, P., & Kassam, K. S. (2015). Emotion and decision making. Annual Review of Psychology, 66, 799-823.
5. Storbeck, J., & Clore, G. L. (2008). Affective arousal as information: How affective arousal influences judgments, learning, and memory. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 2, 1824-1843.
6. Woo, T. L. & Feldman, G. (2024). Revisiting the signal value of emotion in altruistic behavior: Replication and extensions Registered Report of Barasch et al. (2014) Studies 3 and 6. In principle acceptance of Version 2 by Peer Community in Registered Reports.
Conflict of interest:
The recommender in charge of the evaluation of the article and the reviewers declared that they have no conflict of interest (as defined in the code of conduct of PCI) with the authors or with the content of the article.

Evaluation round #1

DOI or URL of the report:

Version of the report: 1

Author's Reply, 20 Mar 2024

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Revised manuscript:

All revised materials uploaded to: , updated manuscript under sub-directory "PCIRR Stage 1\PCI-RR submission following R&R"

Decision by ORCID_LOGO, posted 08 Mar 2024, validated 08 Mar 2024

Dear authors,

Thank you very much for your submission. I have read your paper with great interest and received feedback from two reviewers. Given this feedback and my own reading of the paper, I recommend a minor revision to address the relatively minor concerns that Thibaut raises and that I also noted while reading your manuscript. Angela finds your manuscript ready for IPA.

Thibaut suggests to improve the presentation of the hypotheses (something that I also noted). He also suggests making a clearer distinction between the confirmatory and exploratory analyses, i.e., what you clearly replicate and what you explore. While you might have already stated this in some parts of the manuscript, it might be appropriate to increase its salience. Thibaut also suggests MHT correction if the extensions are part of your confirmatory analyses. More generally, even if you disagree, I think that it calls for making more explicit your decision rule (i.e., the significance threshold that you shall use for your registered hypotheses). Last, the referee is not convinced by the use of simulated data. I see it as a way to test your codes and understand why you included them. Please do not feel compelled to change the manuscript on this point.

I attach my own remarks. (As always, consider them with caution: I might not have understood everything well.)

I am looking forward to receiving the revised version of your (excellent) work.

Best regards,


Download recommender's annotations

Reviewed by , 16 Feb 2024

Reviewed by , 07 Mar 2024

This report is very carefully designed.

1A. The scientific validity of the research question(s) - OK

1B. The logic, rationale, and plausibility of the proposed hypotheses (where a submission proposes hypotheses) - OK

1C. The soundness and feasibility of the methodology and analysis pipeline (including statistical power analysis or alternative sampling plans where applicable) - OK

1D. Whether the clarity and degree of methodological detail is sufficient to closely replicate the proposed study procedures and analysis pipeline and to prevent undisclosed flexibility in the procedures and analyses - OK

1E. Whether the authors have considered sufficient outcome-neutral conditions (e.g. absence of floor or ceiling effects; positive controls; other quality checks) for ensuring that the obtained results are able to test the stated hypotheses or answer the stated research question(s). - OK

I only have one remark. The authors specifically ask feedback on one improvement:

"We note that when reconstructing the materials we noticed that the conditions in Study 6,
at least as described in the target article, were not entirely equivalent, and seemed to conflate
expectations and outcome. For example, expectations for reputation seemed to conflate whether
the donation was private or public. We categorize this as a possible weakness in the experimental
design and decided to deviate and make an adjustment to the target’s stimuli to focus solely on
manipulation of expectations.
[Note to reviewers: We would appreciate feedback on our assessment of this issue and this
adjustment, and are open to changing it given a well-justified argument and/or clear editorial

However, there is not clear information about the comparision of the stimuli side by side, there is only a description and interpretation, so it's difficult to give any feedback.

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