The Relation of Empathy to Prosocial and Related Behaviors

Nancy Eisenberg, Paul Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1715 Scopus citations


In a prior review involving a meta-analysis (Underwood & Moore, 1982), no relation between affective empathy and prosocial behavior was found. In this article, the literature relevant to this issue is reexamined. The studies were organized according to the method used to assess empathy. When appropriate, meta-analyses were computed. In contrast to the earlier review, low to moderate positive relations generally were found between empathy and both prosocial behavior and cooperative/socially competent behavior. The method of assessing empathy did influence the strength of the relations; picture/story measures of empathy were not associated with prosocial behavior, whereas nearly all other measures were. Several possible explanations for the pattern of findings are discussed, as are the implications of the findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-119
Number of pages29
JournalPsychological bulletin
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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