Empathic concern is considered to motivate helping, prosocial behaviours and volunteering. From an evolutionary perspective, scholars state that human beings have an innate disposition to take care of others in need. Why then do some people become volunteers and others not? This study makes a comparison between volunteers (n = 483) and non volunteers (n = 443) in terms of various aspects of emotional empathy, using the Balanced Emotional Empathy Scale. Results show that volunteers score higher than non volunteers with strangers (outgroup) but levels of empathy towards family members/friends (ingroup) are similar. An empathic tendency towards outgroups is proposed as a possible component of the motivation to volunteer.
Keywords: Volunteering, emotional empathy, prosocial behaviour, ingroup, help, altruism.