The Prosocial Personality Battery (PSB)

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The Prosocial Personality Battery (PSB)

Development of the Prosocial Personality Battery (PSB)

We began the development of the PSB by using electronic databases (e.g., PsychLit) and manual literature searches to identify all personality scales that previously had been found to correlate with prosocial affects, cognitions, and actions (most commonly helping). There were many such scales, but we only considered those that met a second selection criterion — there must be a theory or model of helping that would explain why the personality characteristic measured by this scale was associated with prosocial tendencies. Thus, for example, measures of empathy were included because almost every major theory of why people offer aid identifies empathic reactions as a crucial mediational variable (see Batson, 1991; Davis, 1994; Schroeder, Penner, Dovidio, & Piliavin, in press). Measures of
Machiavellianism, however, was excluded because no theory of helping exists that explains why this trait would affect prosocial responses.

The alpha coefficients for the two-factor scores were both in excess of .80. The three-week test-retest reliabilities for the Other-Oriented Empathy factor and the Helpfulness factor were .77 and .85, respectively. In all the samples, significant correlations were found between scores on the Other-oriented Empathy factor and a short-form version of the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale (Strahan & Gerbasi, 1971). The Helpfulness factor was uncorrelated with social desirability. The significant correlations between the first factor and social desirability merit some discussion.

Note to users: The best citation for this version of the Prosocial Personality Battery is:

  • Penner‚ L. A. (2002) The Causes of Sustained Volunteerism: An Interactionist Perspective. Journal of Social Issues‚ 58‚ 447-468. Please let me know if you do use this scale.

Please note that this version is a 30-item version of the full PSB scale. The coefficient alphas for the new versions of the individual scales (N = 1111) are:

  • Social Responsibility .65
  • Empathic Concern .67
  • Perspective Taking .66
  • Personal Distress .77
  • Mutual Moral Reasoning .64
  • Other Oriented Reasoning .77
  • Self-reported altruism .73

The factor structure replicates that reported in Penner et al (1995) almost perfectly (only small changes in the factor loadings).

See: Penner‚ L. A.‚ Fritzsche‚ B. A.‚ Craiger‚ J. P.‚ & Freifeld‚ T. S. (1995). Measuring the prosocial personality. In J. N. Butcher‚ & C. D. Spielberger (Eds.) Advances in personality assessment‚ (Vol. 12). Hillsdale‚ NJ: Erlbaum.

Below are a number of statements that may or may not describe you‚ your feelings‚ or your behavior. Please read each statement carefully and blacken in the space on your answer sheet that corresponds to choices presented below.

There are no right or wrong responses

1= Strongly Disagree‚ 2= Disagree‚ 3= Uncertain‚ 4= Agree‚ 5= Agree Strongly

Social Responsibility (Don’t use title)

  1. When people are nasty to me‚ I feel very little responsibility to treat them well. (R)
  2. I would feel less bothered about leaving litter in a dirty park than in a clean one. (R)
  3. No matter what a person has done to us‚ there is no excuse for taking advantage of them.
  4. With the pressure for grades and the widespread cheating in school nowadays‚ the individual who cheats occasionally is not really as much at fault. (R)
  5. It doesn’t make much sense to be very concerned about how we act when we are sick and feeling miserable. (R)
  6. If I broke a machine through mishandling‚ I would feel less guilty if it was already damaged before I used it. (R)
  7. When you have a job to do‚ it is impossible to look out for everybody’s best interest. (R)


  1. I sometimes find it difficult to see things from the “other person’s” point of view. PT (R)
  2. When I see someone being taken advantage of‚ I feel kind of protective towards them. EC
  3. I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective. PT
  4. Other people’s misfortunes do not usually disturb me a great deal. EC (R)
  5. If I’m sure I’m right about something‚ I don’t waste much time listening to other people’s arguments. PT (R)
  6. When I see someone being treated unfairly‚ I sometimes don’t feel very much pity for them. EC (R)
  7. I am usually pretty effective in dealing with emergencies. PD (R)
  8. I am often quite touched by things that I see happen. EC
  9. I believe that there are two sides to every question and try to look at them both. PT
  10. I tend to lose control during emergencies. PD
  11. When I’m upset at someone‚ I usually try to “put myself in their shoes” for a while. PT
  12. When I see someone who badly needs help in an emergency‚ I go to pieces. PD


Below are a set of statements‚ which may or may not describe how you make decisions when you have to choose between two courses of action or alternatives when there is no clear right way or wrong way to act. Some examples of such situations are: being asked to lend something to a close friend who often forgets to return things; deciding whether you should keep something you have won for yourself or share it with a friend; and choosing between studying for an important exam and visiting a sick relative. Read each statement and blacken in the space on your answer sheet that corresponds to the choices presented below.

1= Strongly Disagree‚ 2= Disagree‚ 3= Uncertain‚ 4= Agree‚ 5= Agree Strongly


  1. My decisions are usually based on my concern for other people. O
  2. My decisions are usually based on what is the most fair and just way to act. M
  3. I choose alternatives that are intended to meet everybody’s needs. M
  4. I choose a course of action that maximizes the help other people receive. O
  5. I choose a course of action that considers the rights of all people involved. M
  6. My decisions are usually based on concern for the welfare of others. O

Below are several different actions in which people sometimes engage. Read each of them and decide how frequently you have carried it out in the past. Blacken in the space on your answer sheet which best describes your past behavior. Use the scale presented below.

1= Never‚ 2=   Once‚ 3= More than Once‚ 4= Often‚ 5= Very Often

SELF-REPORTED ALTRUISM (Don’t use the title)

  1. I have helped carry a stranger’s belongings (e.g.‚ books‚ parcels‚ etc.).
  2. I have allowed someone to go ahead of me in a line (e.g.‚ supermarket‚ copying machine‚ etc.)
  3. I have let a neighbor whom I didn’t know too well borrow an item of some value (e.g.‚ tools‚ a dish‚ etc.).
  4. I have‚ before being asked‚ voluntarily looked after a neighbor’s pets or children without being paid for it.
  5. I have offered to help a handicapped or elderly stranger across a street.

Scoring Instructions:

Reverse Items with an R

Compute scores for 7 individual scales:

Social Responsibility (SR)

Empathic Concern (EC)

Perspective Taking (PT)

Personal Distress (PD)

Other-Oriented Moral Reasoning (O)

Mutual Concerns moral reasoning (M)

Self-reported altruism (SRA)

Factor 1‚ other-oriented empathy‚ = sum of scores on SR‚ EC‚ PT‚ O‚ M.

Factor 2‚ Helpfulness‚ = sum of PD (total reversed*) and SRA.

*After you have reversed the one PD item with an “R” after it‚ sum the PD items and subtract the total score on PD from 18. This makes the meaning of a high score on the Helpfulness factor clearer‚ because now high scores on the two scales both represent prosocial tendencies.

 Contact information:

 Louis A. Penner‚ Ph.D.

Senior Scientist‚ Communication and Behavioral Oncology Program

Karmanos Cancer Institute

Professor‚ Family Medicine

Wayne State University

5th Floor‚ Hudson Webber Cancer Research Center

4100 John R.

Detroit‚ Michigan 48201

[email protected]

(313) 966-8669 (Office)

(313) 966-7262 (Fax)

Developer Name: Louis A. Penner‚ Ph.D
Developer Email: [email protected]


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