Psikhologicheskie Issledovaniya • ISSN 2075-7999
peer-reviewed • open access journal


2021 Vol. 14 Issue 75

Vorobieva A.E., Skipor S.I. On testing the empathy-altruism hypothesis among volunteers helping homeless animals

Full text in Russian: Воробьева А.Е., Скипор С.И. Проверка гипотезы эмпатии – альтруизма среди волонтеров, помогающих бездомным животным

The Institute of Psychology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia
Moscow University for the Humanities, Moscow, Russia

About author
Suggested citation

The empathy-altruism hypothesis is a well-known explanatory model for prosocial behavior. Given certain limitations, we can consider volunteering with homeless animals as a form of prosocial behavior as the society represents a final beneficiary. So far, the research on empathy and altruism among these volunteers is scarce. Therefore, it is unclear whether the empathic concern determines altruism in volunteers with animals. Our aim was to study the ability of volunteers to emotionally empathize with others in general, and to learn if this ability is associated with the altruistic orientation towards animals. The study included 114 volunteers for homeless animals in various Russian charities. The Questionnaire Measure of Emotional Empathy and the Volunteer Functions Inventory were applied. Based on the data obtained two groups were formed: altruists and non-altruists. Next, we compared the level of empathy in the two groups using the Student's t-test (for independent samples). The volunteers showed moderate to low empathy towards people. At the same time, compassion for animals was high among both altruists and non-altruists. No relationship was found between the empathy and altruism among the volunteers with stray animals. It was shown that despite volunteering with animals can be essentially prosocial, they are compassionate primarily for animals rather than people or society. On the other hand, such degree of empathy can relate to emotional burnout and/or compassion fatigue. It can also be determined by the propensity for empathic concern among the volunteers (both to people and animals), or the negative attitude toward people given the context of the volunteers' activities. Further research on the topic is required. Such studies are important for the volunteer movement to be maintained and the emotional burnout prevention.

Keywords: volunteerism, volunteering with nonhuman animals, help homeless animals, empathy, altruism, empathy-altruism hypothesis

Full text in English >>

The study has been executed as part of state assignment No. 0138-2021-0010 "Socio-psychological factors of personality and group behavior in the context of global changes".

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Received 12 August 2020. Date of publication: 05 March 2021.

About author

Vorobieva Anastasia E. PhD, senior researcher of the Laboratory of Social and Economic Psycholo-gy, Institute of Psychology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Yaroslavskaya str., 13-1, 129366 Moscow, Russia.
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Skipor Sofiia I. Graduate, Faculty of Psychology, Pedagogy and Sociology, Moscow University for the Humanities, Yunosti str., 5, 111395 Moscow, Russia.
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Suggested citation

Vorobieva A.E., Skipor S.I. On testing the empathy-altruism hypothesis among volunteers helping homeless animals. Psikhologicheskie Issledovaniya, 2021, Vol. 14, No. 75, p. 7. (in English, abstr. in Russian).

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