The goal of the present study was to examine the motivational underpinnings of helping behavior by looking at self-regulatory demands in relation to pro-social personality traits. Across two experiments, we explored the idea that helping behavior is easier or more intrinsically motivated for those high in pro-social traits, and requires more effortful regulation for those low in pro-social traits. We reasoned that helping behavior may be less sensitive to fatigue, and less fatiguing, for pro-social people in an ego-depletion paradigm. Specifically, in Study 1 (n = 79), we hypothesized that people high in pro-social traits would show better Stroop task performance, following an initial helping task. In Study 2 (n = 91), we expected to find higher helping rates for those high on pro-social traits following a difficult Stroop task manipulation. Contrary to our predictions, Study 1 suggested that those high in pro-social traits were more cognitively depleted following helping, compared to those low in pro-social traits; in Study 2 high pro-social trait scores were associated with less persistence on a helping task following depletion. Overall, our findings suggest that helping behavior is more difficult or effortful for the dispositionally pro-social. Discussion focuses on possible explanations of and degree of confidence in this suggestion.

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Keywords altruism, ego-depletion, helping behavior, personality, Pro-social traits
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Journal Personality and Individual Differences
Ruci, L. (Lorena), van Allen, Z.M. (Zachary M.), & Zelenski, J. (2018). Pro-social personality traits, helping behavior, and ego-depletion: Is helping really easier for the dispositionally pro-social?. Personality and Individual Differences, 120, 32–39. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2017.08.013