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Understanding why and how individuals choose to help others: indirect reciprocal considerations and the moderating role of situation severity



In this article, we examine the impact of how helpful an individual is toward third parties on people's willingness to help that individual. Our results show lower willingness to help those that are unhelpful toward others. Further, varying levels of severity of the situation in which help is needed moderates this relationship. Specifically, in less severe situations (i.e., where withholding help does not lead to dire consequences), willingness to help was greater when recipients were seen as being helpful toward others. This effect was also found in moderate severity situations, although to a lesser extent. More severe situations, however, caused people to want to help regardless of how helpful the recipients themselves were. Empathetic feelings toward the recipients mediated these findings.