What is it about?

Empathic concern is a strong motivator of prosocial behavior, including towards people we are not particularly close with, such as strangers and acquaintances. Yet, some studies find that people are more likely to feel empathy and experience a higher motivation to help others with whom people tend to have closer relationships, such as family and friends. Resolving these seemingly contradictory findings, we show that empathic concern motivates people to help when they perceive low, but not high, interdependence in their relationships.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

Previous frameworks have emphasized the role of empathic concern in shaping the flow of prosocial behavior towards kin, close, and similar (i.e., positively interdependent) others. However, our results provide an alternative explanation: a relationship-building perspective on empathic concern. From this perspective, empathy-motivated helping might allow people to build positive relationships with prospective cooperating partners.


A relationship-building perspective on empathic concern will allow us to test when, and towards whom, feelings of empathic concern motivate people to help. Specifically, the intensity of empathic concern as well as motivation to help, is likely to depend on the cost/benefit tradeoff of investing in new (vs. existing) relationships. We're excited to test how socio-ecological factors such as relational mobility might shape the empathy-help relationship.

Diego Guevara Beltran
University of Arizona

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Empathic concern motivates willingness to help in the absence of interdependence., Emotion, September 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/emo0001288.
You can read the full text:



The following have contributed to this page