Reinterpreting the Empathy-Altruism Relationship: When One into One Equals Oneness

Robert B. Cialdini, Stephanie L. Brown, Brian P. Lewis, Carol Luce, Steven L. Neuberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

704 Scopus citations

Abstract

Important features of the self-concept can be located outside of the individual and inside close or related others. The authors use this insight to reinterpret data previously said to support the empathy-altruism model of helping, which asserts that empathic concern for another results in selflessness and true altruism. That is, they argue that the conditions that lead to empathic concern also lead to a greater sense of self-other overlap, raising the possibility that helping under these conditions is not selfless but is also directed toward the self. In 3 studies, the impact of empathic concern on willingness to help was eliminated when oneness - a measure of perceived self-other overlap -was considered. Path analyses revealed further that empathic concern increased helping only through its relation to perceived oneness, thereby throwing the empathy-altruism model into question. The authors suggest that empathic concern affects helping primarily as an emotional signal of oneness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)481-494
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Volume73
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1997

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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