Don't forget the group! The importance of social norms and empathy for shaping donation behaviour

Siugmin Lay, Hanna Zagefka, Roberto González, Belén Álvarez, Daniel Valdenegro

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Feelings of empathy and the influence of social descriptive norms are related to intentions to donate. People are more likely to help and donate to others when they empathise with them, and when they perceive descriptive norms to encourage such behaviour. However, previous work has not considered the potential interplay between empathy and descriptive norms. Across two surveys in two different national settings (Ns = 1300 & 144) we assessed the interplay between empathy and social descriptive norms on frequency of donation (Study 1) and on willingness to donate (Study 2). Consistent with our main hypotheses, in Studies 1 and 2, norms and empathy were positive predictors of frequency of donation and willingness to donate. Importantly, a consistent interaction between norms and empathy was found in both studies. Empathy was a stronger predictor of donation behaviour and disposition when norms were low. Theoretical and applied implications of these findings are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)518-531
Issue number4
Early online date14 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • donation
  • prosocial behaviour

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