Prosocial behavior was linked to intelligence by a new study published in Intelligence. It was found that highly intelligent people are more likely to behave in ways that contribute to the welfare of others due to higher levels of empathy and developed moral identity.
Prosocial behavior refers to sharing, helping, cooperating, donating, and other voluntary behaviors that benefit others or promote a more harmonious coexistence with others. Previous research found that the tendency to engage in prosocial behavior is associated with one’s cognitive abilities. To explore this link further, a group of psychologists headed by Qingke Guoa (Shandong Normal University) studied the relationship between prosocial behavior and intelligence.
Researchers recruited 518 undergraduate students from two colleges in China to participate in the study. The participants completed surveys designed to measure their fluid intelligence, empathy, and self-reported prosocial behavior.
The results document a relationship between intelligence and prosocial behavior. This finding is in agreement with previous research. It may be explained by the fact that more intelligent people realize the long-term benefits of prosocial behavior and are better able to understand the needs, concerns, and desires of others.
Researchers also examined the role of empathy as a potential mechanism mediating the link between intelligence and prosocial behavior. The ability to take the perspective of others and to experience empathetic concern were found to serve as links in the relationship between intelligence and prosocial behavior. This finding is consistent with previous research documenting that perspective-taking and empathetic understanding are underpinned by cognitive abilities.
Further, developed moral identity was also found to mediate the relationship between intelligence and prosocial behavior. Highly intelligent individuals are more likely to self-identify as moral people and to regard this identity as central to their self-concept. Developed moral identity encourages people to engage in prosocial behavior because it is aligned with their self-concept.
The study, “Why are smarter individuals more prosocial? A study on the mediating roles of empathy and moral identity“, was authored by Qingke Guo, Peng Sun, Minghang Cai, Xiling Zhang, and Kexin Song.