Talking the talk, but not walking the walk: A comparison of self-reported and observed prosocial behaviour

Sahar Awan*, Marc Esteve, Arjen van Witteloostuijn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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The claim that Public Service Motivation (PSM) is an antecedent of prosocial behaviour has often been empirically tested and supported. However, closer inspection of this literature reveals large disparities in relating the two constructs. One reason that could explain such differences is that the relationship between PSM and prosocial behaviours has been primarily tested using self-reported cross-sectional, single-rater and same-survey data. While all of these are widely used methodological approaches in social sciences, they are also susceptible to potential biases. We conduct two comparative studies to re-examine this relationship. Study 1 utilizes self-reported cross-sectional, single-rater and same-survey data linking PSM and prosocial behaviour, revealing a positive relationship with PSM's Compassion dimension. Study 2 involves observing actual prosocial behaviour in a real-life setting. Then, the correlation between PSM and prosocial behaviour disappears. We conclude by discussing the possible reasons that could lead to the differences found across the two studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)995-1010
Number of pages16
JournalPublic Administration
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


AGAUR (Agency for Management of University and Research Grants), Grant/Award Number: 2017-SGR-1556; Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Competitividad, Gobierno de España, Grant/Award Number: CSO2016-80823-P

FundersFunder number
Agència de Gestió d'Ajuts Universitaris i de Recerca2017-SGR-1556
Ministerio de Asuntos Económicos y Transformación Digital, Gobierno de EspañaCSO2016-80823-P


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