Subliminal influence on generosity

Ola Andersson, Topi Miettinen, Kaisa Hytönen, Magnus Johannesson, Ute Stephan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We experimentally subliminally prime subjects prior to charity donation decisions by showing words that have connotations of pro-social values for a very brief time (17ms). Our main fnding is that, compared to a baseline condition, the pro-social prime increases donations by approximately 10-17 percent among subjects with strong pro-social preferences (universalism values). We find a similar effect when interacting the prime with the Big 5 personality characteristic of agreeableness. We furthermore introduce a novel method for testing for priming, "subliminity". This method reveals that some subjects are capable of recognizing prime words, and the overall results are weaker when we control for this capacity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531–555
Number of pages25
JournalExperimental Economics
Issue number3
Early online date15 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017

Bibliographical note

The final publication is available at Springer via


  • prosocial motivation
  • charity
  • priming
  • values
  • behavioral economics
  • psychology
  • personality
  • agreeableness
  • subliminal


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