Emotion regulation moderates the association between empathy and prosocial behavior

P.L. Lockwood, A. Seara-Cardoso, E. Viding

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77 Citations (Scopus)
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Theory and evidence suggest that empathy is an important motivating factor for prosocial behaviour and that emotion regulation, i.e. the capacity to exert control over an emotional response, may moderate the degree to which empathy is associated with prosocial behaviour. However, studies to date have not simultaneously explored the associations between different empathic processes and prosocial behaviour, nor whether different types of emotion regulation strategies (e.g. cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression) moderate associations between empathy and prosocial behaviour. One hundred–and-ten healthy adults completed questionnaire measures of empathy, emotion regulation and prosocial tendencies. In this sample, both affective and cognitive empathy predicted self-reported prosocial tendencies. In addition, cognitive reappraisal moderated the association between affective empathy and prosocial tendencies. Specifically, there was a significant positive association between empathy and prosocial tendencies for individuals with a low or average tendency to reappraise but not for those with a high tendency to reappraise. Our findings suggest that, in general, empathy is positively associated with prosocial behaviour. However, this association is not significant for individuals with a high tendency for cognitive reappraisal.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere96555
Number of pages6
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2014


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