When does self-reported prosocial motivation predict helping? The moderating role of implicit prosocial motivation

A. Aydinli, Michael Bender, A. Chasiotis, Zeynep Cemalcilar, Fons J. R. van de Vijver

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23 Citations (Scopus)


In three studies, we tested a motivational model to predict different types of helping from an interactionist, dual-system perspective. We argued that helping behavior is determined by the interplay of two distinct motivational systems: the explicit (i.e., conscious) and the implicit (i.e., unconscious). In line with previous research we expected that explicit prosocial motivation relates to helping, and additionally proposed that depending on the type of helping this relationship is moderated by implicit prosocial motivation: For planned helping, explicit prosocial motivation is a sufficient predictor, regardless of implicit prosocial motivation. For spontaneous helping, on the other hand, the effect of explicit prosocial motivation is moderated by implicit prosocial motivation, and only predictive when also implicit prosocial motivation is high. Study 1 (207 Dutch participants, M age = 51.7 years; 51.7 % female) with self-reported willingness to help as dependent variable confirmed that planned helping was determined by explicit prosocial motivation, whereas its effect on spontaneous helping was moderated by implicit prosocial motivation. Study 2 (193 U.S. participants, M age = 35.2 years; 64.2 % female) with real-life measures of planned help confirmed the hypothesized main effect of explicit prosocial motivation. Study 3 (73 Dutch participants, M age = 20.8 years; 68.5 % female) with a real-life measure of spontaneous helping confirmed the moderating role of implicit prosocial motivation, as the effect of explicit prosocial motivation on helping was only significant for individuals with high implicit prosocial motivation. We argue that considering implicit prosocial motivation provides an overlooked avenue for a more systematic investigation of helping.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)645-658
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


  • Implicit motivation
  • Explicit motivation
  • Motive congruence
  • Prosocial
  • Helping
  • Volunteering

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