Consisting of over 2,000 adult participants, researchers at the University of Bath conducted eight experiments.
The adult participants were asked how they would describe typical children. As part of a field study, researchers had determined that adult passers-by near the University of Bath increased their likelihood of donating to charity, but only when children were present.
The findings indicated that children play a significant indirect role in how adults engage in prosocial behaviors, with the presence of children inducing pro-social motivation and donation behavior.
“We present findings aggregated across eight experiments involving 2,054 adult participants: Prosocial values became more important after completing tasks that made children salient compared to tasks that made adults (or a mundane event) salient or compared to a no-task baseline,” the study reads.
“The findings suggest broad, reliable interconnections between human mental representations of children and prosocial motives, as the child salience effect was not moderated by participants’ gender, age, attitudes, or contact with children,” researchers concluded.