Social Class and Pro-Social Behavior: The Moderating Role of Public versus Private Contexts

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Description: Associations between social class and pro-social behavior—defined broadly as action intended to help others—may vary as a function of contextual factors. Three studies examined how making pro-social actions public, versus private, moderates this association. In Study 1, participation in a public pro-social campaign was higher among upper- than lower-class individuals. In Studies 2 and 3, lower-class individuals were more pro-social in a dictator game scenario in private than in public, whereas upper-class individuals showed the reverse pattern. Follow-up analyses revealed the importance of reputational concerns for shaping class differences in pro-sociality: Specifically, higher-class individuals reported that pride motivated their pro-social behavior more than lower-class individuals, and this association partially accounted for class-based differences in pro-sociality in public versus private contexts. Together, these results suggest that unique strategies for connecting and relating to others develop based on one’s position in the class hierarchy.


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