Using experience sampling to examine links between compassion, eudaimonia, and prosocial behavior

Journal of Personality 87 (3):690-701 (2019)
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Objective: Compassion has been associated with eudaimonia and prosocial behavior, and has been regarded as a virtue, both historically and cross-culturally. However, the psychological study of compassion has been limited to laboratory settings and/or standard survey assessments. Here, we use an experience sampling method (ESM) to compare naturalistic assessments of compassion with standard assessments, and to examine compassion, its variability, and associations with eudaimonia and prosocial behavior. Methods: Participants took a survey which included standard assessments of compassion and eudaimonia. Then, over four days, they were repeatedly asked about their level of compassion, eudaimonia, and situational factors within the moments of daily life. Finally, prosocial behavior was tested using the Dual Gamble Task and an opportunity to donate task winnings. Results: Analyses revealed within-person associations between ESM compassion and eudaimonia. ESM compassion also predicted eudaimonia at the next ESM time point. While not impervious to situational factors, considerable consistency was observed in ESM compassion in comparison with eudaimonia. Further, ESM compassion along with eudaimonia predicted donating behavior. Standard assessments did not. Conclusion: Consistent with virtue theory, some individual’s reports displayed a probabilistic tendency toward compassion, and ESM compassion predicted ESM eudaimonia and prosocial behavior toward those in need.

Author's Profile

Jason D. Runyan
Indiana Wesleyan University


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