Transforming "apathy into movement": the role of prosocial emotions in motivating action for social change

Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2009 Nov;13(4):310-33. doi: 10.1177/1088868309343290. Epub 2009 Sep 15.


This article explores the synergies between recent developments in the social identity of helping, and advantaged groups' prosocial emotion. The authors review the literature on the potential of guilt, sympathy, and outrage to transform advantaged groups' apathy into positive action. They place this research into a novel framework by exploring the ways these emotions shape group processes to produce action strategies that emphasize either social cohesion or social change. These prosocial emotions have a critical but underrecognized role in creating contexts of in-group inclusion or exclusion, shaping normative content and meaning, and informing group interests. Furthermore, these distinctions provide a useful way of differentiating commonly discussed emotions. The authors conclude that the most "effective" emotion will depend on the context of the inequality but that outrage seems particularly likely to productively shape group processes and social change outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anger
  • Emotions*
  • Empathy
  • Group Processes*
  • Guilt
  • Helping Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological
  • Morals
  • Motivation*
  • Social Change*
  • Social Identification*