What is it about?

Previous research has shown that people who have a clearer, more consistent and more stable idea of who they are will be more likely to help other people. But why might that be? In this study, we show that a fragile concept oneself often comes with believing one’s actions are not very effective, and that in turn leads to individuals less being less likely to act to alleviate suffering in others. Surprisingly, we found that none of these beliefs, including what people say about how compassionate they've been recently, predict whether or not someone will donate a small amount of money to a charity.

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Why is it important?

These results suggests that sometimes people don't help others (or themselves) not because they don't care or don't want to, but rather because they don't think they can do anything successfully that would help. This is more likely if they also have a poor sense of themself. This study also raises concerns about linking how compassionate people think and say they are with objective behavioural measures of compassion. This has consequences for how compassion research is done in psychology laboratory settings.


Most of my work to date explores how people build and maintain a sense of self using evidence from their actions, and this project was a really interesting way to bring the consequences of those beliefs into better understanding daily life.

Kelsey Perrykkad
Monash University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Beliefs about action efficacy mediate the relationship between self-concept clarity and self-reported compassionate action., Psychology of Consciousness Theory Research and Practice, January 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/cns0000349.
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