Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 40, Issue 5, pp 655–666 | Cite as

Individual-based relative deprivation (IRD) decreases prosocial behaviors

  • Hong ZhangEmail author
  • Man Liu
  • Yuan Tian
Original Paper


Five studies investigated the relationship between individual-based relative deprivation (IRD) and prosocial behaviors. Study 1 found that income satisfaction, a concept closely related to IRD, was negatively associated with prosocial values across cultures. Study 2 found a negative association between IRD and prosocial aspirations among a sample of Chinese university students. Study 3 revealed a negative association between IRD and volunteer behaviors. In Studies 4 and 5, we found that laboratory-induced IRD decreased undergraduate students’ prosocial values and behaviors. Moreover, Study 5 also found that the tendency to prioritize self-interest over others’ mediated the effect of IRD on prosocial behaviors. Implications of these findings are discussed.


IRD Prosocial values Prosocial behaviors 



This research is supported by Grant from the National Natural Science Foundation of China allocated to the first author (Grant No. 31400899).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This research is approved by the Institutional Review Board of Nanjing University.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Abrams, D., & Grant, P. (2012). Testing the social identity relative deprivation (SIRD) model of social change: The political rise of Scottish nationalism. British Journal of Social Psychology, 51, 674–689. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8309.2011.02032.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Bartlett, M. Y., & DeSteno, D. (2006). Gratitude and prosocial behavior: Helping when it costs you. Psychological Science, 17, 319–325. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01705.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Batson, C. D. (1998). Altruism and prosocial behavior. In G. Lindzey, D. Gilbert, & S. T. Fiske (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology. New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  4. Batson, C. D., Batson, J. G., Slingsby, J. K., Harrell, K. L., Peekna, H. M., & Todd, R. M. (1991). Empathic joy and the empathy-altruism hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 413–426. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.61.3.413.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Bègue, L. (2002). Beliefs in justice and faith in people: Just world, religiosity and interpersonal trust. Personality and Individual Differences, 32, 375–382. doi: 10.1016/S0191-8869(00)00224-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Berkowitz, L. (1990). On the formation and regulation of anger and aggression. American Psychologist, 45, 494–503.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Berkowitz, L., & Connor, W. H. (1966). Success, failure, and social responsibility. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4, 664–669. doi: 10.1037/h0023990.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bierhoff, H., Klein, R., & Kramp, P. (1991). Evidence of altruistic personality from data on accident research. Journal of Personality, 59, 263–280. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.1991.tb00776.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Callan, M. J., Ellard, J. H., Shead, N. W., & Hodgins, D. C. (2008). Gambling as a search for justice: Examining the role of personal relative deprivation in gambling urges and gambling behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 1514–1529. doi: 10.1177/0146167208322956.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Callan, M. J., Shead, N. W., & Olson, J. M. (2011). Personal relative deprivation, delay discounting, and gambling. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101, 955–973. doi: 10.1037/a0024778.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Cialdini, R. B., Darby, B. L., & Vincent, J. E. (1973). Transgression and altruism: A case for hedonism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9, 502–516. doi: 10.1016/0022-1031(73)90031-0.Google Scholar
  12. Correia, I., & Vala, J. (2004). Belief in a just world, subjective well-being and trust of young adults. In C. Dalbert & H. Sallay (Eds.), The justice motive in adolescence and young adulthood: Origins and consequences (pp. 85–100). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Crocker, K., Luhtanen, R., Blaine, B., & Broadnax, S. (1994). Collective self-esteem and psychological well-being among White, Black, and Asian college students. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20, 503–513. doi: 10.1177/0146167294205007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Crosby, F. (1976). A model of egoistical relative deprivation. Psychological Review, 83, 85–113. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.83.2.85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Crosby, F. (1979). Relative deprivation revisited: A response to Miller, Bolce, and Halligan. The American Political Science Review, 73, 103–112. doi: 10.2307/1954733.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. D’Ambrosio, C., & Frick, J. R. (2007). Income satisfaction and relative deprivation: An empirical link. Social Indicators Research, 81, 497–519. doi: 10.1007/s11205-006-0020-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dalbert, C. (1999). The world is more just for me than generally: About the personal belief in a just world scale’s validity. Social Justice Research, 12, 79–98. doi: 10.1023/A:1022091609047.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dambrun, M., Taylor, D. M., McDonald, D. A., Crush, J., & Méot, A. (2006). The relative deprivation-gratification continuum and the attitudes of South Africans toward immigrants: A test of the V-curve hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 1032–1044. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.91.6.1032.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. DePalma, M. T., Madey, S. F., Tillman, T. C., & Wheeler, J. (1999). Perceived patient responsibility and belief in a just world affects helping. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 21, 131–137. doi: 10.1207/15324839951036470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dzuka, J., & Dalbert, C. (2002). Mental health and personality of Slovak unemployed adolescents: The impact of belief in a just world. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 32, 732–757. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2002.tb00240.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dzuka, J., & Dalbert, C. (2006). The belief in a just world and subjective well-being in old age. Aging & Mental Health, 10, 439–444. doi: 10.1080/13607860600637778.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Eibner, C., Sturm, R., & Gresenz, C. R. (2004). Does relative deprivation predict the need for mental health services? Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics, 7, 167–175.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2004). The psychology of gratitude. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Foa, U. G., & Foa, E. B. (1980). Resource theory: Interpersonal behavioras exchange. In K. J. Gergen, M. S. Greenberg, & R. H. Willis (Eds.), Social exchange: Advances in theory and research (pp. 77–94). New York: Plenum Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Furnham, A. (2003). Belief in a just world: Research progress over the past decade. Personality and Individual Differences, 34, 795–817. doi: 10.1016/S0191-8869(02)00072-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. George, J. M. (1991). State or trait: Effects of positive mood on prosocial behaviors at work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 76, 299–307. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.76.2.299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Greitemeyer, T., & Rudolph, U. (2003). Help giving and aggression from an attributional perspective: Why and when we help r retaliate. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 33, 1069–1087. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2003.tb01939.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hafer, C. L., & Olson, J. M. (1989). Beliefs in a just world and reactions to personal deprivation. Journal of Personality, 57, 799–823. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.1989.tb00495.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hafer, C. L., & Olson, J. M. (1993). Beliefs in a just world, discontent, and assertive actions by working women. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 19, 30–38. doi: 10.1177/0146167293191004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Halevy, N., Chou, E. Y., Cohen, T. R., & Bornstein, G. (2010). Relative deprivation and intergroup competition. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 13, 685–700. doi: 10.1177/1368430210371639.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Harris, M. B., Benson, S. M., & Hall, C. L. (1975). The effect of confession on altruism. The Journal of Social Psychology, 96, 187–192. doi: 10.1080/00224545.1975.9923284.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Hayes, A. F., & Preacher, K. J. (2014). Statistical mediation analysis with a multicategorical independent variable. British Journal of Mathematical and Statistical Psychology, 67, 451–470. doi: 10.1111/bmsp.12028.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G. J., & Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  34. Isen, A. M., & Levin, P. F. (1972). Effect of feeling good on helping: Cookies and kindness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 21, 384–388. doi: 10.1037/h0032317.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Iyer, A., Schmader, T., & Lickel, B. (2007). Why individuals protest the perceived transgressions of their country: The role of anger, shame, and guilt. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 572–587. doi: 10.1177/0146167206297402.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (1993). A dark side of the American dream: Correlates of financial success as a central life aspiration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 410–422. doi: 10.1037/00223514.65.2.410.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Ketelaar, T., & Au, W. T. (2003). The effects of feelings of guilt on the behavior of uncooperative individuals in repeated social bargaining games: An affect-as-information interpretation of the role of emotion in social interaction. Cognition and Emotion, 17, 429–453. doi: 10.1080/02699930143000662.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lemay, E. P., Overall, N. C., & Clark, M. S. (2012). Experiences and interpersonal consequences of hurt feelings and anger. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103, 982–1006. doi: 10.1037/a0030064.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Lerner, M. J. (1980). The belief in a just world: A fundamental delusion. New York: Plenum.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lerner, M. J. (1981). The justice motive in human relations: Some thoughts on what we know and what we need to know about justice. In M. Lerner & S. Lerner (Eds.), The justice motive in social behavior (pp. 11–38). New York: Plenum Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lipkus, I. M., Salbert, C., & Siegler, N. C. (1996). The importance of distinguishing the belief in a just world for self versus for others: Implications for psychological well-being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 666–677. doi: 10.1177/0146167296227002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. McCullough, M. E., Emmons, R. A., & Tsang, J. (2002). The grateful disposition: A conceptual and empirical topography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 112–127. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.82.1.112.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Meier, B. P., Moeller, S. K., Riemer-Peltz, M., & Robinson, M. D. (2012). Sweet taste preferences and experiences predict prosocial inferences, personalities, and behaviors. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, 163–174. doi: 10.1037/a0025253.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Moore, B. S., Underwood, B., & Rosenhan, D. L. (1973). Affect and altruism. Developmental Psychology, 8, 99–104. doi: 10.1037/h0033847.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Moscatelli, S., Albarello, F., Prati, F., & Rubini, M. (2014). Badly off or better off than them? The impact of relative deprivation and relative gratification on intergroup discrimination. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 107, 248–264. doi: 10.1037/a0036704.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. North, A. C., Tarrang, M., & Hargreaves, D. J. (2004). The effects of music on helping behavior: A field study. Environment and Behavior, 36, 266–275. doi: 10.1177/0013916503256263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Olson, J. M., Roese, N. J., Meen, J., & Robertson, D. J. (1995). The preconditions and consequences of relative deprivation: Two field studies. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 25, 944–964. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.1995.tb02384.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Osborne, D., & Sibley, C. G. (2013). Through rose-colored glasses system-justifying beliefs dampen the effects of relative deprivation on well-being and political mobilization. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39, 991–1004. doi: 10.1177/0146167213487997.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Piff, P. K., Kraus, M. W., Côté, S., Cheng, B. H., & Keltner, D. (2010). Having less, giving more: The influence of social class on prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 771–784. doi: 10.1037/a0020092.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Piliavin, J. A. (2003). Doing well by doing good: Benefits for the benefactor. In C. L. M. Keyes & J. Haidt (Eds.), Flourishing: Positive psychology and the life well-lived (pp. 227–247). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rand, D. G., Greene, J. D., & Nowak, M. A. (2012). Spontaneous giving and calculated greed. Nature, 489, 427–430. doi: 10.1038/nature11467.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Runciman, W. G. (1966). Relative deprivation and social justice. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  53. Sampson, R. J., Raudenbush, S. W., & Earls, F. (1997). Neighborhoods and violent crime: A multilevel study of collective efficacy. Science, 227, 918–924. doi: 10.1126/science.277.5328.918.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sheldon, K. M., & Kasser, T. (2008). Psychological threat and extrinsic goal striving. Motivation and Emotion, 32, 37–45. doi: 10.1007/s11031-008-9081-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Smith, H. J., Pettigrew, T. F., Pippin, G. M., & Bialosiewicz, S. (2012). Relative deprivation: A theoretical and meta-analytic review. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 16, 203–232. doi: 10.1177/1088868311430825.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Stiles, B. L., Liu, X., & Kaplan, H. B. (2000). Relative deprivation and deviant adaptations: The mediating effects of negative self-feelings. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 37, 64–90. doi: 10.1177/0022427800037001003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Tang, J. A. (2006). Gratitude and prosocial behavior: An experimental test of gratitude. Cognition and Emotion, 20, 238–248. doi: 10.1080/02699930500172341.Google Scholar
  58. Van Coillie, H., & Van Mechelen, I. (2006). A taxonomy of anger-related behaviors in young adults. Motivation and Emotion, 30, 56–73. doi: 10.1007/s11031-006-9000-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. van Doorn, J., Zeelenberg, M., & Breugelmans, S. M. (2014). Anger and prosocial behavior. Emotion Review, 6, 261–268. doi: 10.1177/1754073914523794.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Van Lange, P. A., De Bruin, E., Otten, W., & Joireman, J. A. (1997). Development of prosocial, individualistic, and competitive orientations: Theory and preliminary evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 733–746. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.73.4.733.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. Wakslak, C. J., Jost, J. T., Tyler, T. R., & Chen, E. S. (2007). Moral outrage mediates the dampening effect of system justification on support for redistributive social policies. Psychological Science, 18, 267–274. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01887.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Walker, L., & Mann, L. (1987). Unemployment, relative deprivation, and social protest. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 13, 275–283. doi: 10.1177/0146167287132012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. WIN-Gallup International. (n.d.). Global index of religiosity and atheism. Retrieved March 3, 2015, from
  64. World Bank Group. (n.d.). GDP per capita (current US$). Retrieved March 3, 2015, from
  65. World Bank Group. (n.d.). GINI index. Retrieved March 3, 2015, from
  66. World Values Survey Association. (n.d.). World Values Surveys six-wave integrated data file, 2010–2014 [dataset]. Retrieved March 3, 2015, from
  67. Zitek, E. M., Jordan, A. H., Monin, B., & Leach, F. R. (2010). Victim entitlement to behave selfishly. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 245–255. doi: 10.1037/a0017168.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Zoogah, D. B. (2010). Why should I be left behind? Employees’ perceived relative deprivation and participation in development activities. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95, 159–173. doi: 10.1037/a0018019.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, School of Social and Behavioral SciencesNanjing UniversityNanjingChina

Personalised recommendations