“I help because I want to, not because you tell me to”: empathy increases autonomously motivated helping

Pavey, Louisa Jane, Greitemeyer, Tobias and Sparks, Paul (2012) “I help because I want to, not because you tell me to”: empathy increases autonomously motivated helping. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38 (5). pp. 681-689. ISSN 0146-1672

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Abstract

Empathetic arousal has been found to be a strong predictor of helping behavior. However, research has neglected the motivational mechanisms whereby empathetic concern elicits help giving. Three studies examined the extent to which autonomous and controlled motives for helping mediated the relationship between empathy and helping. Study 1 found that state empathy predicted willingness to offer time and money to help a person in need, with this relationship mediated by autonomous motivation for helping. Study 2 demonstrated that dispositional, empathetic concern predicted prosocial intentions and behavior via the mediation of autonomous motivation. Study 3 revealed that participants who focused on the emotions of another person in distress reported greater willingness to help than did participants who remained emotionally detached, with this effect mediated by autonomous motivation to help. Controlled motivation had no positive effects on helping in any of the studies. The results suggest that empathy encourages prosocial behavior by increasing autonomous motivation to help.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0501 Motivation
Depositing User: Paul Sparks
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2012 08:59
Last Modified: 29 Jun 2012 08:59
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/39748
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