Paths to the Light and Dark Sides of Human Nature: A Meta-AnalyticReview of the Prosocial Benefits of Autonomy and the Antisocial Costs of Control

James N. Donald, Emma L. Bradshaw, James H. Conigrave, Philip D. Parker, Lauren L. Byatt, Michael Noetel, Richard M. Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Self-determination theory (SDT) posits that experiences of autonomy lead people to be more prosocial, whereas experiences of control lead to antisocial actions. In this meta-analysis, we tested the links between autonomy and prosociality and control and antisociality, across 139 reports (167 studies) with 1,189 effect sizes (N = 75,546 participants). We used two-stage structural equation modeling including both correlational and longitudinal study designs. We found support for the hypothesized direct links between autonomy and prosociality and between control and antisociality, with cross-paths between these constructs being weaker. In line with SDT’s claims that the salutary effects of autonomy are universal, results also showed that the hypothesized links were consistent across cultures, genders, and age categories. We also reviewed emerging experimental research on the effect of autonomy-priming interventions on prosociality. To conclude, we discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these findings and lay out an agenda for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)921-946
Number of pages26
JournalPsychological Bulletin
Volume147
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Antisocial
  • Autonomy
  • Meta-analysis
  • Prosocial
  • Self-determination theory

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