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AbstractWhy do people act altruistically? One theory is that empathy is a driver of morality. Experimental studies of this are often confined to laboratory settings, which often lack ecological validity. In the present study we investigated whether empathy traits predict if people will act altruistically in a real-world setting, "in the wild". We staged a situation in public that was designed to elicit helping, and subsequently measured empathic traits in those who either stopped to help or walked past and did not help. Results show that a higher number of empathic traits are a significant and positive predictor for altruistic behavior in a real-life situation. This supports the theory that the act of doing good is correlated with empathy.
This work was supported by the Autism Research Trust and the Medical Research Council; Pinsent Darwin Trust, Medical Research Council and Cambridge Trust; National Institute for Health Research.