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Description: Some stories of moral exemplars motivate us to emulate their prosocial behavior, but why do some stories motivate better than others? We sought to systematically study how motivated people are to emulate the altruistic acts of a moral exemplar when the exemplar is similar to the participant in social or cultural background (Relatability) and is engaging in actions that are easy to emulate (Attainability). Study 1 found that university students reported more inspiration and related feelings after reading true stories about the good deeds of a recent fellow alum, compared to those who read about a famous moral exemplar from decades past. Study 2A developed a battery of short moral exemplar stories that more systematically varied Relatability and Attainability, along with a set of non-moral exemplar stories for comparison. Studies 2B and 2C examined the path from the story type to prosocial behavior (donating to charity and intentions to volunteer) through perceived attainability and relatability, as well as elevation and pleasantness. Together, these studies suggest that moral exemplar stories perceived to be relatable more strongly promote the kind of elevation that inspires emulation of prosocial behavior.

License: CC-By Attribution 4.0 International

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