Student Author(s)

Jonathon Anderson
James Clark

Faculty Mentor(s)

Professor Rebecca Johnson

Document Type


Event Date



With the ubiquitous nature of the internet, people are exposed to and influenced by a wide range of media and messages. In June of 2014, Facebook revealed manipulating user’s news feeds with either negative or positive messages, thus impacting the kind of subsequent posts of the users. Users mirrored the emotional valence in their newsfeeds with their own posts (Kramer, Guillory, & Hancock, 2014). Similarly, in fall 2014 the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral via social media raising millions for ALS funding. Will people be moved enough by a viral video to perform altruistic acts without a personal challenge from a friend? An information processing model combined with a media effects theory predict the following hypotheses. H1: Online exposure to altruistic acts increases altruistic attitudes. H2: Online exposure to altruistic acts increases altruistic behaviors. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two conditions: a treatment group, exposed to an altruistic video with a general call to action of spreading kindness, and a control group, exposed to a control video of a puppy. Both groups were tested on altruistic attitudes (Nickell, 1998) and likelihood of future altruistic behavior (Rushton, 1981). Within two weeks of original exposure, a second round of data collection assessed altruistic attitudes, likelihood of future altruistic behavior, and altruistic behavior performed since initial participation. Results support that exposure to altruistic videos increases altruistic attitudes, likelihood of altruistic behavior, and actual acts of altruism. Results also reveal attitudes and likelihood of behavior increase over time. The uses of viral altruistic videos that contain a general call to action without a personal challenge are effective in increasing altruistic attitudes and behaviors.


This research was supported by Frost Research Center at Hope College.