Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version

October 1999


Published in BASIC AND APPLIED SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY, 21:3 (1999), pp. 189-197. Copyright © 1999, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Used by permission. "Contact LEA for permission to use or reprint."


Prior theorists and researchers have suggested that multiplicative models of prosocial behavior may account for weak and inconsistent relations between traits and prosocial behaviors. This study examined the multiplicative relations of trait personal distress, trait sympathy, and trait perspective taking on prosocial behaviors. Nonlinear, 2-way interactions were hypothesized, such that as trait personal distress decreased from moderate to low levels, and trait perspective taking or trait sympathy increased, volunteering would increase. One hundred and eighty-two undergraduate students completed a battery of trait measures that included trait perspective taking, trait sympathy, and trait personal distress. Approximately 6 weeks later, the students were given an opportunity to volunteer for a charity organization. Results indicated that there was a nonlinear multiplicative effect of trait perspective taking and trait personal distress on volunteering. Discussion focused on the implications of nonlinear, multiplicative trait models of prosocial behaviors.