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Prosocial behavior in envy scenarios

Xiujun Li (Shanghai Normal University), Yuhui Su (Chinese Academy of Sciences–University of Chinese Academy of Sciences), Xiaoshi Liu (Shanghai Normal University), Wendian Shi (Shanghai Normal University), Kan Shi (Chinese Academy of Sciences–University of Chinese Academy of Sciences)
Cite this article:  Li, X., Su, Y., Liu, X., Shi, W., & Shi, K. (2017). Prosocial behavior in envy scenarios. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 45, 1803-1814.
Publication date: December 2017


We investigated prosocial behavior in different envy conditions. Participants (N = 118) responded to partners’ requests for help after taking part in either a control scenario or scenarios where they felt that their partner was envious of them based on their performance (input), a reward (output), or both (input–output). Results showed significantly different levels of prosocial behavior, with this being highest in the output envy scenario and lowest in the input–output envy scenario. Effects of benign and malicious envy were also assessed across scenarios. In the input and output scenarios, malicious envy positively predicted prosocial behaviors and benign envy negatively predicted prosocial behaviors, whereas the opposite was true in the input–output scenario. Our results imply that employees experiencing benign envy can be motivated to improve their own abilities and performance, whereas perceiving malicious envy is likely to elicit prosocial behavior by the envied person toward envious employees.

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