Transforming "apathy into movement": The role of prosocial emotions in motivating action for social change

Emma F. Thomas, Craig McGarty, Kenneth I. Mavor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

219 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the synergies between recent developments in the social identity of helping, and advantaged groups’ prosocial emotion. The authors review the literature on the potential of guilt, sympathy, and outrage to transform advantaged groups’ apathy into positive action. They place this research into a novel framework by exploring the ways these emotions shape group processes to produce action strategies that emphasize either social cohesion or social change. These prosocial emotions have a critical but underrecognized role in creating contexts of in-group inclusion or exclusion, shaping normative content and meaning, and informing group interests. Furthermore, these distinctions provide a useful way of differentiating commonly discussed emotions. The authors conclude that the most “effective” emotion will depend on the context of the inequality but that outrage seems particularly likely to productively shape group processes and social change outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)310-333
Number of pages24
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • emotion
  • social identity
  • helping/prosocial behaviour
  • group processes
  • morality


Dive into the research topics of 'Transforming "apathy into movement": The role of prosocial emotions in motivating action for social change'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this