Brent McFerran of the Ross School at the University of Michigan and Karl Aquino of the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia say people who experience moral elevation are more apt to take positive moral action, such as giving to charity.
The researchers say study subjects were randomly assigned to read one of two news stories -- one recounted the 2006 shooting at an Amish schoolhouse in which parents offered forgiveness and financial assistance to the widow of the man who shot their children, and one about a beautiful sunset.
The subjects were then asked to divide $10 between themselves and an unknown partner in another room. Those who read the Amish story gave 32 percent more money, on average, to their partners than the sunset subjects.
"If more attention was devoted to recounting stories of uncommon acts of human virtue, the media could have a quantifiable positive effect on the moral behavior of a significant group of people," Aquino said in a statement.
The study was published of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.