23 février 2021, 12h45–13h45
The ability to switch between representations of the self and others (‘self-other control’) is a relevant mechanism across several socio-cognitive domains (e.g., imitation, visual perspective taking, empathy, theory of mind), but its relevance to prosocial behaviour has not yet been established. Previous research shows that training self-other control in one domain can result in improvements in a different domain. In two studies, we attempted to increase prosocial behaviour by training participants to either imitate (decreasing self-other control) or inhibit imitation (increasing self-other control). We hypothesised that those in the imitation-inhibition condition would show greater helping behaviour than those in the imitation condition. Results from both Study 1 (n = 86) and Study 2 (n = 121) confirmed our prediction; those trained to inhibit imitation were almost twice as likely to agree to a help request compared to those trained to imitate. These data are the first to demonstrate that self-other control is a relevant socio-cognitive mechanism in helping behaviour. Thinking of others rather than oneself is a core component of prosocial actions. We show that the ability to distinguish representations of others from representations of the self can be trained with prosocial effects.