Film-facilitated arousal and prosocial behavior

Charles W. Mueller, Edward Donnerstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The present investigation sought to test the applicability of the excitation transfer model (P. Tannenbaum & D. Zillmann. In L. Berkowitz, Ed., Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 8, New York: Academic Press 1975) to prosocial behavior. This model predicts that for individuals predisposed to act prosocially, arousal transferred from an unrelated source will facilitate such behavior. Two studies were conducted in which male college students, treated in either a positive or neutral manner and shown an arousing erotic or nonarousing control film, ostensibly rewarded and punished a confederate for performance on a memory task. Contrary to predictions, the first experiment found the arousing film increased reward regardless of treatment. In the second experiment, where the neutral treatment was given a more negative tone, the predicted interaction was found. Specifically, subjects treated in a positive manner and shown an arousing film were significantly more rewarding than were similarly treated subjects shown the nonarousing film. While type of film had no effect on neutral subjects' reward behavior, the arousing film did increase their punitive behavior. These results, coupled with physiological and self-report data, strongly support the excitation transfer model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-41
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1981
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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