Social Influence, Empathy, and Prosocial Behavior in Cross-Cultural Perspective
Over a decade ago, Eisenberg and Miller (1987) conducted a meta-analysis to examine whether various indexes of empathy and sympathy were related to indexes of prosocial behavior in children and adults. Empathy was defined as a vicarious emotional response (e.g., facial indexes or self-reports of sadness, happiness, etc.) to another person’s emotion or situation. Sympathy was considered an emotional response involving concern or pity for the emotional state or circumstances of the other person. Prosocial behavior was broadly defined to include social behaviors oriented to benefit another, regardless of potential outcomes for oneself. Overall, they found that empathetic and sympathetic responding, as measured by self-report in experiments and on questionnaires, facial and gestural measures, and physiological indexes, were significantly and positively associated with prosocial behavior in children and adults. Nonsignificant associations with prosocial
behavior were found when children’s empathy or sympathy was assessed through picture/story methods or self-report in experiments.