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Keywords:

  • cooperation;
  • interpersonal sensitivity;
  • prosocial behaviour;
  • regulatory focus;
  • reputation;
  • self-regulation;
  • social dilemma

Abstract

The present research examined the interplay of individual differences in self-regulatory mechanisms as outlined in regulatory focus theory (promotion- and prevention-focus) and a cue of being watched in the context of cooperative behaviour. Study 1 revealed that the more individuals' habitual self-regulatory orientation is dominated by a vigilant prevention focus, the more likely they are to act cooperatively (i.e. to donate money to natural conservation organizations) when a subtle cue of being watched renders reputational concerns salient. In contrast, when no such cue is provided individuals' habitual vigilant self-regulatory orientation is negatively related to cooperative behaviour. Study 2 replicated the results of the initial study and examined interpersonal sensitivity (empathic concern) as a potential mediator of the observed effects. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.