Connecting perceived economic threat and prosocial tendencies: The explanatory role of empathic concern

M. Alonso-Ferres, G. Navarro-Carrillo, M. Garrido-Macías, E. Moreno-Bella, I. Valor-Segura

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© 2020 Alonso-Ferres et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.Recent research suggests that perceived economic threat constitutes a valid predictor of people’s attitudes and behaviors. While accumulated empirical evidence has mostly underlined the deleterious psychological effects (e.g., reduced psychological well-being) of perceived economic threat in times of economic strain, we postulate that individuals experiencing higher economic threat linked to the Spanish economic crisis are more prone to engage in other-beneficial prosocial behavior. Across two independently collected community samples, we tested this theoretical formulation and examined the potential mediating roles of empathic concern (Studies 1 & 2) and identification (Study 2). Study 1 (N = 306) revealed that participants who descended in the social scale due to the negative national economic context were engaged in a larger number of helping behaviors over the last three months compared to participants who did not descend the social ladder—independently of several sociodemographic and ideological factors. Moreover, our data indicated these effects were driven by increased empathic concern. Study 2 (N = 588), in which two hypothetical helping-behavior scenarios were randomly administered (crisis-related vs. control), showed that participants under high perceived financial threat exhibited an undifferentiated pattern of prosociality. However, moderated-mediation analyses indicated that empathic concern explained the perceived financial threat-helping behavior link in the hypothetical crisis-related scenario but not in the hypothetical control scenario. Together, these findings extend prior literature on the psychosocial effects of perceived economic threat and the determinants of other-oriented behavior. Implications of these findings and suggestions for further research are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0232608
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020
Externally publishedYes


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