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Essay on Prosocial Behaviour | Human Behaviour | Psychology

In this essay we will discuss about:- 1. Meaning of Prosocial Behaviour 2. Nature of Prosocial Behaviour 3. Determinants.

Meaning of Prosocial Behaviour:

Prosocial behavior, or “voluntary behavior intended to benefit another”, consists of actions which “benefit other people or society as a whole,”‘ “such as helping, sharing, donating, co-operating, and volunteering.” These actions may be motivated by empathy and by concern about the welfare and rights of others, as well as for egoistic or practical concerns. Evidence suggests that prosociality is central to the well-being of social groups across a range of scales. ‘Empathy is a strong motive in eliciting prosocial behavior, and has deep evolutionary roots.

Prosocial behavior fosters positive traits that are beneficial for children and society. It may be motivated both by altruism and by self-interest, for reasons of immediate benefit or future reciprocity. Evolutionary psychologists use theories such as kin-selection theory and inclusive fitness as an explanation for why prosocial behavioral tendencies are passed down generationally, according to the evolutionary fitness displayed by those who engaged in prosocial acts. Encouraging prosocial behavior may also require decreasing or eliminating undesirable social behaviors.

Although the term “prosocial behavior” is often associated with developing desirable traits in children, the literature on the topic has grown since the late 1980s to include adult behaviors as well.

Situational and individual factors relating to prosocial behavior:

Prosocial behavior is mediated by both situational and individual factors and it can be shown as:

1. Situational Factors:

The decision model of bystander intervention noted that whether or not an individual gives aid in a situation depends upon their analysis of the situation. An individual will consider whether or not the situation requires their assistance, if the assistance is the responsibility of the individual, and how to help.

The number of individuals present in the situation requiring help is also a mediating factor in one’s decision to give aid, where the more individuals are present, the less likely it is for one particular individual to give aid due to a reduction in perceived personal responsibility.

Additionally, Piliavin et al., (1981) noted that individuals are likely to maximize their rewards and minimize their costs when determining whether or not to give aid in a situation – that is, that people are rationally self-motivated. Prosocial behavior is more likely to occur if the cost of helping is low (i.e. minimal time, or minimal effort), if helping would actually benefit the individual providing the help in some way, and if the rewards of providing the help are large. If it is in an individual’s interest to help, they will most likely do so, especially if the cost of not providing the help is great.

People are also more likely to help those in their social group, or their “in group”. With a sense of shared identity with the individual requiring assistance, the altruist is more likely to provide help, on the basis that one allocates more time and energy towards helping behavior within individuals of their own group.

The labeling of another individual as a member of one’s “in-group” leads to greater feelings of closeness, emotional arousal, and a heightened sense of personal responsibility for the other’s welfare, all of which increase the motivation to act prosocially.

Researchers have also found that social exclusion decreases the likelihood of prosocial behavior occurring. In a series of seven experiments conducted by Twenge et al., (2007) researchers manipulated social inclusion or exclusion by telling research participants that other participants had purposefully excluded them, or that they would probably end up alone later in life.

They found that this preliminary social exclusion caused prosocial behavior to drop significantly, noting that, “Socially excluded people donated less money to a student fund, were unwilling to volunteer for further lab experiments, were less helpful after a mishap, and cooperated less in a mixed-motive game with another student.”

This effect is thought to be due to the fact that prosocial behavior, again, is motivated by a sense of responsibility in caring for and sharing resources with members of one’s own group.

2. Individual Factors:

Individuals can be compelled to act prosocially based on learning and socialization during childhood. Operant conditioning and social learning positively reinforces discrete instances of prosocial behaviors. Helping skills and a habitual motivation to help others is therefore socialized, and reinforced as children understand why helping skills should be used to help others around them.

Social and individual standards and ideals also motivate individuals to engage in prosocial behavior. Social responsibility norms, and social reciprocity norms reinforce those who act prosocially. As an example, consider the child who is positively reinforced for “sharing” during their early childhood years. When acting prosocially, individuals reinforce and maintain their positive self-images or personal ideals, as well as help to fulfill their own personal needs.

Emotional arousal is an important motivator for prosocial behavior in general. Batson’s (1987) empathy-altruism model examines the emotional and motivational component of prosocial behavior. Feeling empathy towards the individual needing aid increases the likelihood that the aid will be given. This empathy is called “empathetic concern” for the other individual, and is characterized by feelings of tenderness, compassion, and sympathy.

Agreeableness is thought to be the personality trait most associated with inherent prosocial motivation. Prosocial thoughts and feelings may be defined as a sense of responsibility for other individuals, and a higher likelihood of experiencing empathy (“other-oriented empathy”) both affectively (emotionally) and cognitively. These prosocial thoughts and feelings correlate with dispositional empathy and dispositional agreeableness.

Nature of Prosocial Behaviour:

These points come under the nature:

a. Helping others

b. Obeying rules

c. Cooperating with others

d. Conforming to socially acceptable behaviour

e. Building relationships.

Determinants of Prosocial Behaviour:

Determinants of prosocial behavior are:

1. Altruism:

Altruism or selflessness is the principle or practice of concern for the welfare of others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures and a core aspect of various religious traditions, though the concept of “others” toward whom concern should be directed can vary among cultures and religions. Altruism or selflessness is the opposite of selfishness.

Altruism can be distinguished from feelings of duty and loyalty. Altruism is a motivation to provide something of value to a party who must be anyone but one’s self, while duty focuses on a moral obligation towards a specific individual (e.g., a god, a king), or collective (e.g., a government). Pure altruism consists of sacrificing something for someone other than the self (e.g. sacrificing time, energy or possessions) with no expectation of any compensation or benefits, either direct, or indirect (e.g., receiving recognition for the act of giving).

Much debate exists as to whether “true” altruism is possible. The theory of psychological egoism suggests that no act of sharing, helping or sacrificing can be described as truly altruistic, as the actor may receive an intrinsic reward in the form of personal gratification. The validity of this argument depends on whether intrinsic rewards qualify as “benefits.”

The term altruism may also refer to an ethical doctrine that claims that individuals are morally obliged to benefit others. Used in this sense, it’s usually contrasted to egoism, which is defined as acting to the benefit of one’s self.

2. Fairness:

Fairness or being fair may refer to:

a. Justice: Equity (law), a legal principle allowing for the use of discretion and fairness when applying justice

b. Social justice, equality and solidarity in a society

c. Distributive justice, the perceived appropriateness of the distribution of goods, benefits, and other outcomes in a society, group, or organization

d. Procedural justice, the perceived appropriateness of rules or procedures used to allocate goods, benefits, and other outcomes

e. Interactional justice, the perceived appropriateness of interpersonal treatment

f. Environmental justice, the perceived appropriateness of the use or treatment of the environment or people via the environment, typically as a function of interpersonal or international relations.