Situational Affordances for Prosocial Behaviour: On the Interaction Between Honesty-Humility and (Perceived) Interdependence

Simon Columbus*, Isabel Thielmann, Daniel Balliet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Individual differences in prosocial behaviour are well-documented. Increasingly, there has been a focus on the specific situations in which particular personality traits predict prosocial behaviour. HEXACO Honesty-Humility—the basic trait most consistently linked to prosocial behaviour in prior studies—has been found to predict prosociality most strongly in situations that afford the exploitation of others. Importantly, though, it may be the subjectively perceived situation that affords the behavioural expression of a trait. Following this reasoning, we tested the proposition that Honesty-Humility would predict prosocial behaviour more strongly in situations characterised by, and perceived to contain, two dimensions of interdependence that can afford exploitation: high conflict and high power. However, across a series of incentivised economic games and two large experience sampling studies, we only found inconsistent evidence for the association between Honesty-Humility and prosocial behaviour. Furthermore, the link between Honesty-Humility and prosociality was neither conditional on objective interdependence nor on subjective perceptions of interdependence. Nonetheless, perceptions of conflict and power tracked objective properties of economic games and were related to prosocial behaviour in the lab and field. Future research should take individuals' subjective understanding of situations into account, which may also help understand the (generalisability of the) effect of Honesty-Humility on prosocial behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)655-673
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Personality
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


We would like to thank Ard Barends, Reinout de Vries, and Ingo Zettler for helpful discussion, and Catherine Molho, Francesca Righetti, and 17 team members who collected the Interdependence in Daily Life data sets. This research was funded by an ERC Starting Grant (635356) awarded to Daniel Balliet.

FundersFunder number
ERC Starting
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme635356
European Research Council


    • cooperation
    • honesty-humility
    • interdependence
    • person × situation interaction
    • situation perception


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