Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




Joanna Schug

Committee Members

Janice Zeman

Gul Ozyegin


Much research found that empathy and helping tendencies differ across cultures, but few studies have examined factors that may account for the cultural differences. The current study aimed to determine whether the socioecological factor relational mobility could explain cultural differences in empathy and helping. Survey data were collected from universities in China and the United States. Results showed that relational mobility is higher in the United States than in China. Americans and Chinese did not differ in their levels of empathy toward close friends, but Americans reported higher levels of empathy toward strangers and higher tendency to help others than Chinese. Ingroup bias in empathy was stronger in China than in the United States. Relational mobility negatively moderated the relation between empathy and helping. These findings suggest that in low relational mobility society, helping tendency was driven by empathy, while in high relational mobility society, the tendency to help was driven by the expectation of reciprocity.

Keywords: empathy, helping, relational mobility, culture, social ecology, reciprocity

On-Campus Access Only