Predicting prosocial tendencies among college students



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Prosocial behaviors inherently benefit oneself, others, and the larger society. Therefore, further investigation as to which factors influence positive social acts is beneficial to better understand what motivates prosocial behavior as well as how it may be promoted. Much of the literature on prosocial behavior targets the construct of empathy. However, little research has been done to differentiate between cognitive and affective empathy, and their relationship with prosocial behaviors. Moreover, proponents of rational compassion, consisting of rational thinking and compassion, contradict the positive assessment of empathy's contributions to positive social acts by proposing that empathy may not be the best predictor of prosocial behavior. Consequently, this project aimed to determine which among the constructs of empathy and compassion in addition to fairness and kindness best predict prosocial tendencies in a variety of contexts. The current study assessed prosocial tendencies, cognitive and affective empathy, rational compassion, fairness, and kindness among college-aged participants. The resulting data were analyzed using a hierarchical regression with empathy, compassion, fairness, and kindness as predictors, and prosocial tendencies as the outcome variable. Results indicated that cognitive empathy and kindness were the strongest predictors of positive social behavior. Sex was also explored as a moderator and indicated that the effect of kindness on prosocial tendencies depended on participant sex. Overall, this study elucidates the factors that influence prosocial behavior.