Prosocial Behavior: Will you be helping someone in need?

Prosocial Behavior: Will you be helping someone in need?

It is of no surprise that all of us might have thought about helping someone in some situation. We think about if it is okay to help the person in need, where at the same time we reflect on the resources and consequences that we will be facing while helping. There might have been an instance or we might have heard about it that in a situation where help was required and people were also present there, yet they did not help. They just stood there and saw everything. It is not an uncommon thing has just been said. What are the factors that influence us to help others? How do we process the word help? What pushes us or stops us from helping other? There could be so many questions like that and the answer of these questions are still not known by us entirely. If we try to answer these questions and reflect on those answers without getting influenced by our personal bias, then we can figure out various aspects related to the act of helping someone. It can be understood that there are narratives which talks about how people were perceived good as they helped others. Is the ability to help, a characteristic or is it a spectrum, like it is present in everyone but the degree differs from person to person?
Out of many factors, one factor can be simply the need to help others because you just want to and you also have all the resources and time to help those who are need. When you help someone with a thought that if today you are helping someone, then in future you seed an expectation that you will also be getting help from that person when you will be in need. This is one side of the coin, the other is, when you help someone without any expectation or any desire of getting benefits in any form then you are involving in prosocial behavior. For instance feeding a needy person just because you want to do it and you have no second thought related to it and you do not even want to benefit from it in any ways. It is just an example; prosocial behavior can be in many forms and can be focused on helping few people or a large numbers of people. Even though it can be considered as a purest form of act of kindness, but why would someone do that? It can be a bit mysterious to fetch a simple answer for it but again there can be factors that lead to such behaviors. It is an important aspect to be known that there can be different forms of help; financial, mentally supporting someone, physically supporting someone or other ways. Help can be in any form but the intentions with which it is provided is what contributes in making it a prosocial behavior. It leads us to the thought that what motivates the tendency to indulge in such behaviors? An important aspect here is empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand the problem of individual’s from their point of view. Sometimes we want to help someone because we keep on feeling bad about something and we do not want to feel that thing and in order to end that feeling we extend our help. It is a selfish reason to help and can be a debate in itself, but it can be both, it is a little selfish because that bad feeling provoked the thought of helping someone but at the same time it is not selfish as someone who needs help is being helped. It can be both depending on the explanation that one would like to attach with it.

We do good in order to stop feeling bad. This is also known as negative state relief model when prosocial behavior is explained in this manner. Compassion for others is also an important aspect here. Another interesting aspect can be the need to appear good which is boosted by a certain level of competition. Sometimes helping is not just the act of helping rather people want to indulge in it because they want to present themselves to be good than others. There is a basic tendency to perceive people good or bad on the basis of their traits and acts. If someone is seen to be as helpful providing support to that in need is generally appreciated than that who is not involved in such act. These are the factors that can differ from person to person. At the same time the tendency to help also depends on the environment which is present to learn from. Kids who see their parents helping and involved in supporting behaviors are more likely to develop this tendency later in life and even at that time, as they will be aware about it and will see it. The tendency to help increases when the people who needs help are similar to us and we can relate to them in some ways. If one of our family members needs help or any of our friends is stuck in a bad situation then we are most likely to help, but consider a similar situation with a stranger, the chances are that we will not provide any assistance or help. This can stem from the idea of being aware of the person who needs help. If the person is similar to us then we are able to understand the situation in an empathetic manner. In a strangers case there might be a possibility that the level of sympathy could be present but there can be an absence of empathy.
These are few factors that play a significant role in deciding whether to help or not. Apart from these our cognition also plays an important role. The way we perceive a situation of help can also determine and influence our behavior. The way of understanding a situation leads in evaluating it on various levels, like the amount of resources required, efforts and probability of an occurrence of situation. Not every individual has the skill of responding effectively and efficiently in a situation of emergency. For some it can create a panic in which their skills of processing shuts down or on the other hand there can be some who can activate their thought process instantly to come up with ways of dealing with the situation. Evaluating the situation from financial perspectives can also influence an individual. Helping sometimes might involve a cost, time and a lot of efforts which not all are ready invest. There has been an interesting phenomenon which is known as the bystander effect, it states that when a lot of people are present in a particular situation, it diffuses the responsibility to help that is people start thinking that there are others also present in this situation that can help then it is not entirely my responsibility to help. This is something that we might have experiences in some point of our lives where this thought would have influenced our ability to offer help. Our mood, availability of time, readiness to respond and so on can also influence the situation.

It clearly shows that there are so many factors that can influence us when we want to help someone or when we even thing about helping someone. It is important for us to think and then evaluate without just letting other factors influence our decision. Helping is an act which can generate so many positive feelings not only in us but also in that individual who we are helping. It can evoke the basic idea on the humanitarian grounds that it is not so difficult to survive in a world that is full of uncertainties. Empathy can be the key but how can it be kick started so that people can become more ready to help and become sensitive towards each other. It can be an individual task or a skill that can be taught on a basic level so that people know that a thing like empathy does exist and it is just not a word. We know how to sympathize with other but do we know how to empathize? The answer is what you have to look for and see what it means to you. Such thoughts can’t entirely make people help each other but they can definitely start a thought process that can open the possibility for people to think about engaging in behaviors to help others.

About the Author

Fariyal Asad

Hi! I am a graduate psychology student. I've completed my graduation from Ambedkar University Delhi. I am a psychology en

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