Empathy and correct mental state inferences both promote prosociality

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



In a world with rapidly increasing population that competes for the earth's limited resources, cooperation is crucial. While research showed that empathizing with another individual in need enhances prosociality, it remains unclear whether correctly inferring the other's inner, mental states on a more cognitive level (i.e., mentalizing) elicits helping behavior as well. We applied a video-based laboratory task probing empathy and a performance measure of mentalizing in adult volunteers (N = 94) and assessed to which extent they were willing to help the narrators in the videos. We replicate findings that an empathy induction leads to more prosocial decisions. Crucially, we also found that correct mentalizing increases the willingness to help. This evidence helps clarify an inconsistent picture of the relation between mentalizing and prosociality.


Original languageEnglish
Article number16979
Number of pages8
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2022

External IDs

Scopus 85139501191
ORCID /0000-0002-9375-2222/work/142255884



  • Adult, Empathy, Helping Behavior, Humans, Mentalization

Library keywords