The Effect of Target’s Power on Prosocial Behavior: A Cross-Cultural Study


Cross-cultural studies; social interaction; interpersonal relations; moral development


Social power predicts numerous important life outcomes and social orientations. Thus far, the research literature has mainly examined how an individual’s own power shapes interactions with others, whereas whether a target’s power affects social interactions has been relatively neglected. In particular, does a target’s power have an effect on the agent’s prosocial behavior? Furthermore, could culture along with the power distance dimension alter the effect of a target’s power on prosocial behavior? To explore these two research questions, we investigated the effect of a target’s power (power unspecified targets vs. powerful targets) on prosocial behavior in both China and the United States. Questionnaires measuring prosocial behavior toward power unspecified or powerful targets were distributed to Chinese and American emerging adults (n in total ¼ 893). According to the results, both Chinese and Americans were less likely to help powerful targets compared with power unspecified targets. Moreover, the Chinese were less prosocial toward both power unspecified and powerful targets in comparison to the Americans. These findings highlight the key roles of a target’s power and culture in shaping an individual’s prosocial behavior.

Original Publication Citation

Fu, X., Padilla-Walker, L. M., *Nielson, M. G., Yuan, M., & Kou, Y. (2020_online). The effect of target’s power on prosocial behavior: A cross-cultural study. The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor