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PLoS One. 2016 Jun 2;11(6):e0156062. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0156062. eCollection 2016.

The Spreading of Social Energy: How Exposure to Positive and Negative Social News Affects Behavior.

Yao Z1, Yu R1,2,3,4.

Author information

School of Psychology, Center for Studies of Psychological Application and Key Laboratory of Mental Health and Cognitive Science of Guangdong Province, South China Normal University, Guangzhou, China.
Department of Psychology, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore.
Singapore Institute for Neurotechnology (SINAPSE), Centre for Life Sciences, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore.
Neurobiology/Aging programme, Center for Life Sciences, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore.


Social news, unlike video games or TV programs, conveys real-life interactions. Theoretically, social news in which people help or harm each other and violate rules should influence both prosocial and violation behaviors. In two experiments, we demonstrated the spreading effects of social news in a social interaction context emphasizing social conventions and a nonsocial interaction context emphasizing moral norms. Across the two studies, the results showed that positive social news increased cooperation (decreased defection) but had no effect on cheating, whereas negative social news increased cheating but with no change in cooperation (or defection). We conclude that there is a spreading impact of positive social news in the conventional norm domain and of negative social news in the moral norm domain.

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