Empathy, Guilt Proneness, and Gender: Relative Contributions to Prosocial Behaviour

Linda Torstveit, Stefan Sütterlin, Ricardo Gregorio Lugo


Guilt is a moral emotion that is often looked upon as a negative trait. However, studies show that some individuals are more predisposed to think, feel and act in a more ethical manner because of a lower threshold to experience guilt. Some theories of helping behaviour emphasize the evolutionary mechanisms, while other theories stress the importance of social variables. This study investigated whether guilt proneness as a dispositional trait can be associated with prosocial behaviour. Five hundred sixty-nine participants reported in an online survey their own levels of guilt proneness, frequency of prosocial behaviour, and related cognitions such as empathy. This study is among the first to demonstrate how guilt proneness combined with empathy can explain additional variance in prosocial behaviour. The findings also indicate gender differences in the precursors of prosocial behaviour, suggesting women are more influenced by the effects of guilt proneness on prosocial behaviour than men.


guilt proneness; guilt; empathy; personality; prosocial behaviour; helping behaviour; gender

Full Text: PDF HTML


Citing articles (via Crossref)

  • Pauline Georgees Poless, Linda Torstveit, Ricardo Gregorio Lugo, Marita Andreassen, Stefan Sütterlin (2018)
    Guilt and proneness to shame: Unethical behaviour in vulnerable and grandiose narcissism
    Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 14(1), p. 28(ff.)
    doi: 10.5964/ejop.v14i1.1355