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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Five studies investigated the links between rights-focused (RFM) and duty-focused mindsets (DFM) and prosociality. Making salient both RFM and DFM in a within-participants designs, Studies 1-2 examined the relationships of RFM and DFM with a number of outcomes related to prosocial attitudes. Results indicated that RFM and DFM both uniquely increased prosociality. Experimentally inducing either RFM or DFM in a between-participants design, Study 3 found that RFM had stronger effects on prosocial outcomes than DFM. Further, Study 3 showed that this relative advantage of RFM over DFM in boosting prosociality was due to RFM (relative to DFM) increasing people’s perceived importance and relevance of individualizing morality (harm and fairness). Study 4 thus explored the possibility that RFM’s greater default potential to increase prosociality is due to the inherent focus of rights on individuality, and whether, by the same token, DFM strengthen its potential to increase prosociality as long as the situation is highly individualized. Adding a baseline to the design of Study 3, and using a vignette paradigm, Study 4 showed that in a context of interpersonal helping (i.e., a highly individualized context), relative to baseline both RFM and (especially) DFM increased people’s prosocial attitudes and behavioral intentions. In a 2x2 design, Study 5 experimentally manipulated mindsets (RFM vs. DFM) as well as individuality (high vs. low, asking participants to think about someone in their inner or outer social network). In line with the individuality explanation, there was a general effect of individuality, prosociality being higher (across both RFM and DFM conditions) when participants thought about someone in their inner rather than outer social network. Together, these studies provide evidence for the prosocial potential of RFM; illuminate the roots of this potential; and, by doing so, show a way to leverage this knowledge to increase the prosocial potential of DFM.


First Advisor

Bernhard Leidner Leidner