Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

MS Experimental Psychology




Susan Teague, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Susan A. Nolan, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kelly M. Goedert, Ph.D.


self-construal, prosocial behavior, empathy, independence


The current study examined the effects of both primed and unprimed tripartite self-construal on real helping behavior offered in a laboratory setting. Additional variables commonly associated with prosocial behavior, namely empathy (Eisenberg & Miller, 1987) and agreeableness (Graziano, Hasbashi, Sheese & Tobin, 2007; Caprara, Alessandri & Eisenberg, 2912), were also assessed. Undergraduate students (N = 119) completed self-report measures of empathy, agreeableness, and chronic self-construal, then completed a self-construal prime before the experimenter requested help with a simple task. It was predicted that the independence prime would increase helping among participants, as seen in the work of Finlay and Trafimow (1998) and Wit and Kerr (2002). It was predicted that the relational prime would increase helping among female participants only; and that empathy and agreeableness would be associated with greater helping.

Contrary to predictions, only chronic independence and empathy were statistically significant predictors of helping. Higher chronic independence scores predicted whether participants agreed to help, and greater empathy predicted greater lengths of time that help was offered. Potential improvements of the tripartite self-construal prime are discussed, as well as future directions for research on independent self-construal, empathy, and their potentially interactive influence on prosocial behavior.