The Role of Sympathy and Altruistic Personality Traits in Helping: A Reexamination

Nancy Eisenberg, Paul Miller, M. Schaller, Richard Fabes, J. Fultz, R. Shell, C. L. Shea

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112 Scopus citations


ABSTRACT The purposes of this study were (a) to examine the role of social evaluative concerns in the self‐report of sympathy and in the relation of sympathy to helping, and (b) to determine the role of “altruistic personality” traits and situationally induced vicarious emotional responses in the intention to help Dispositional and situational self‐reports of sympathy and other vicarious emotional reactions were obtained for persons who also were given the opportunity to assist a needy other Moreover, dispositional measures of concern with social evaluation and an altruistic orientation were obtained, and a bogus pipeline manipulation was instituted for half the study participants Both dispositional and situational self‐reported sympathy were positively related to helping, as were other personality indices viewed as reflecting altruistic characteristics The relations for the dispositional indices of sympathy were not due solely to social evaluative concerns or to other egoistic concerns The effects on intended helping of dispositional sympathy, perspective taking, and the tendency to ascribe responsibility for others to the self appeared to be both direct and mediated by situational sympathetic responding Finally, situational sadness did not mediate the effects of sympathetic responsiveness

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-67
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of personality
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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