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Does feeling holier than others predict good deeds? Self-construal, self-enhancement and helping behavior

Joon Yong Seo (School of Business and Economics, State University of New York, Brockport, New York, USA)
Debra L. Scammon (David Eccles School of Business, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 4 November 2014




The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between self-enhancement and helping behavior/intentions. Some people are more inclined than others to engage in helping behaviors. Determining what individual characteristics are related to helping behavior could have important implications for both marketers and non-profit organizations. Drawing on research on self-enhancement, this paper examines the relationship between the “above-average effect” (the tendency of individuals to rate themselves more favorably than they rate others) specifically on altruistic traits and helping behavior.


Data were collected through two surveys and analyzed with correlation analysis, path analysis and structural equation models.


In two studies, we find a positive relationship between interdependence and self-enhancement and a positive relationship between self-enhancement and helping behavior (volunteering in Study 1 and donation behavior in Study 2). We further show that self-enhancement mediates the effect of interdependence on helping. Personal importance of altruistic traits is shown to underlie these relationships.

Practical implications

By understanding the antecedents of helping behaviors, non-profit and charity organizations, social marketers and other advocates of pro-social behaviors can enhance the effectiveness of their appeals. Our findings provide insights for both messaging and targeting.


This study examines the relationship between self-enhancement and helping behavior. In so doing, it contributes to the self-enhancement literature by identifying the relationship between self-construal and self-enhancement. It also extends understanding of the relationship between these two constructs and helping behavior by revealing the mediating role of self-enhancement on helping behavior.



Yong Seo, J. and L. Scammon, D. (2014), "Does feeling holier than others predict good deeds? Self-construal, self-enhancement and helping behavior", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 31 No. 6/7, pp. 441-451.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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