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date: 20 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The link between empathy and prosocial behavior has been the subject of empirical investigation for decades. This author presents a selective review of this work and a consideration of some of the most important theoretical issues that have arisen during this time. Six bodies of research are identified and considered: (a) laboratory investigations using generic strangers, (b) studies using problematic strangers, (c) work using interdependent strangers, (d) studies of volunteering, (e) investigations of organizational citizenship behavior, and (f) research on prosocial behavior with relationship partners. Both dispositional and state empathic concern are consistently related to prosocial actions; situational perspective taking is generally related to prosociality, but its relation is more complex. Three issues meriting continuing research attention are discussed.

Keywords: Empathy, sympathy, empathic concern, perspective taking, altruism

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