The His and Hers of Prosocial Behavior: An Examination of the Social Psychology of Gender

Alice H. Eagly*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

485 Scopus citations


Prosocial behavior consists of behaviors regarded as beneficial to others, including helping, sharing, comforting, guiding, rescuing, and defending others. Although women and men are similar in engaging in extensive prosocial behavior, they are different in their emphasis on particular classes of these behaviors. The specialty of women is prosocial behaviors that are more communal and relational, and that of men is behaviors that are more agentic and collectively oriented as well as strength intensive. These sex differences, which appear in research in various settings, match widely shared gender role beliefs. The origins of these beliefs lie in the division of labor, which reflects a biosocial interaction between male and female physical attributes and the social structure. The effects of gender roles on behavior are mediated by hormonal processes, social expectations, and individual dispositions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)644-658
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Psychologist
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • altruism
  • gender
  • helping
  • prosocial behavior
  • sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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