The psychology behind Prosocial Behavior

The psychology behind Prosocial Behavior

prosocial behaviour

Prosocial actions are those that have the intention of assisting others. Concern about the rights, feelings, as well as welfare of others characterizes these acts. Prosocial behavior encompasses a wide range of actions, such as sharing, cooperating, comforting, and helping. The term “antisocial behavior” was coined in the 1970s by social researchers as an an alternative term for antisocial behavior.

Researcher’s view

There are two broad categories into which theoretical accounts of prosocial behavior can be divided. Theories based on evolution that describe prosocial behavior as a response to social pressures are found in the first category.

  • The theory of kin selection explains why helping genetic relatives is more common than helping friends or strangers. When you help individuals who exhibit genes with you, you enhance their probabilities of survival as well as ensure that your genetic material stays (or increase) in a gene pool (Hamilton, 1963, 1964).
  • According to the theory of reciprocal altruism, assisting those who are not related to, you can also be adaptive if you can rely on those you help to help you in return when you need it (Trivers, 1971).

Also Read: Why do people change their behavior?

Advantages of Prosocial Conduct

Prosocial behaviors can benefit the “helper” in a number of ways in additionally to the obvious benefits they have for the recipients.

  • Mood-boosting effects: Studies have also revealed a positive correlation between prosocial behavior and improved mood. Furthermore, those who assist others are less likely to be in bad moods overall.
  • Benefits of social support: Having a strong social network can help you get through trying times. Studies have demonstrated the significant influence social support may have on various facets of well-being, such as lowering the likelihood of depression, alcoholism, and loneliness. To effectively manage stress, bolster your support system.
  • Stress-reducing effects: Research additionally suggests which engaging in prosocial behaviors assists in reducing the negative emotional effects about stress.

Types of Pro-social behaviour

Although prosocial behavior is frequently depicted as a single, homogeneous dimension, some research indicates that there may be various varieties. These categories, which differ according to the purpose of production, consist of:

  • Proactive: These are altruistic deeds that yield personal gains
  • Reactive: These are acts taken in reaction to personal requirements
  • Altruistic behavior: Includes deeds intended to benefit others without thinking about one’s own benefit.

Additionally, researchers propose that these various prosocial behaviors are frequently driven by different forces. Proactive prosocial actions, for instance, have been found to frequently be driven by popularity within a group and status-linked goals. Conversely, altruistic prosocial actions were more strongly associated with obtaining common objectives and earning the favor of peers.

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Prosocial Action versus Selflessness

Although prosocial behavior and altruism are frequently associated, some experts contend that they are two distinct ideas. Altruism is perceived as a helping behavior driven solely by concern for the person in need, whereas prosocial behavior is perceived as a helping behavior that eventually confers some benefits to the self. On the other hand, some contend that many acts of altruism are motivated by reciprocity or that people act in these seemingly altruistic ways out of self-interest. For instance, someone may act philanthropically in order to feel good about themselves or to win the praise of others.

Reason behind pro-social behaviour

According to psychologists, there are several explanations for why people act in prosocial ways.

  • Evolutionary influences: Evolutionary psychologists often invoke the concepts of natural selection to explain prosocial behavior. While placing your own security in risk makes it less probable that you are going to survive and pass on your personal genes, kin selection indicates that helping other members of your family’s genetic lineage makes it a greater possibility that your kin will endure and pass on the genes to succeeding generations. Research has provided evidence that people are more likely to help those who have a connection close to them.
  • Benefits to oneself: Prosocial actions are frequently perceived as being driven by a variety of reasons, such as egoistic motives (enhancing one’s own image), reciprocal benefits (doing a good deed for someone in the hopes that they will one day repay the favor), and more altruistic motives (acting solely out of empathy for another person).
  • Reciprocal behavior: According to the norm of reciprocity, people feel obligated to help others in return when they do them a favor. Evolutionary psychologists contend that this norm evolved because individuals who recognized the possibility of receiving kindness in return were more likely to survive and procreate.
  • Socialization: Children are often encouraged to share, behave kindly, and assist others by adults during their early and teenage years.

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The Bystander effect

Situational factors can also have a significant influence on people’s decision to take prosocial action. One of the most prominent examples of how the circumstances can affect helpful behaviors is the bystander effect. The propensity for people to become less willing to help someone in need when there are many other people around is known as the “bystander effect.”

For instance, if you drop your purse and a few things fall to the ground, there is a lower chance that someone will come over and assist you if there are lots of people around. When someone is in grave danger, like in a car accident, the same kind of thing can occur. Witnesses may believe that because there are so many other people there, someone else has probably already requested assistance.

Factors Affecting Prosocial Conduct

We now have a better understanding of why people assist in some situations but not in others thanks to research on the bystander effect. Numerous distinct situational factors have been found by experts to both support and occasionally obstruct prosocial behavior.

  • Fear of being judged or embarrassed: Sometimes people are afraid to offer help for fear that it will be rejected or uncalled for. People just don’t do anything to avoid being scrutinized by other onlookers.
  • How others react: In these kinds of circumstances, people also frequently look to others for guidance, especially if there is some degree of ambiguity in the event. People are less inclined to respond if they don’t see anyone else doing so.
  • The quantity of individuals in attendance: People feel less personal responsibility in a situation when there are more people around. We call this the diffusion of responsibility.

Also Read: Understanding Defensive Behavior and Self-image

Encourage pro-social behaviour

Prosocial behaviour is said to be beneficial for people , groups and civilizations. Since there are variety of factors that influence altruistic behavior, one can take the following steps to develop and encourage prosocial behavior in both yourself and other people:

  • Improving one’s abilities: A general reason that people don’t offer assistance as they believe they lack the skills needed to handle the situation. For the efficient handling of such problem one can take steps like learning the fundamentals of CPR or first aid, that will help you feel more equipped in the situation that you do find yourself in an emergency.
  • Modelling pro-social behavior: When you become a parent, you need to set a positive example for your kids by behaving in a way that would be helpful to them. Prosocial actions also motivate people to take action. Engaging in community services or exploring different alternative avenues for providing assistance to others.
  • Acknowledging kindness: Learn and try to express your gratitude to children and adults alike for their altruistic deeds.

Numerous advantages can result from prosocial behavior. In addition to making sure that those in need of assistance receive it, it can also make prosocial behaviors feel better about themselves. Research indicates that acts of kindness and other prosocial behaviors are contagious, despite the fact that there are occasionally barriers that prevent such behaviors.

  • Brownell C, Pollock B, Waugh W. Early socialization of prosocial behavior: Parental encouragement patterns for toddlers to assist with daily household tasks 2015;39:1–10. doi:10.1016/j.infbeh.2014.12.010 Infant Behav Dev.
  • Raposa EB, Laws HB, Ansell EB. Prosocial behavior mitigates the negative effects of stress in everyday life. Clin Psychol Sci. 2016;4(4):691-698. doi:10.1177/2167702615611073
  • Dunfield KA. A construct divided: Prosocial behavior as helping, sharing, and comforting subtypes. Front Psychol. 2014;5:958. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00958
  • Silk JB, House BR. The evolution of altruistic social preferences in human groups. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2016;371(1687):20150097. doi:10.1098/rstb.2015.0097
  • Waugh W, Brownell C, Pollock B. Early socialization of prosocial behavior: Patterns in parents’ encouragement of toddlers’ helping in an everyday household task. Infant Behav Dev. 2015;39:1-10. doi:10.1016/j.infbeh.2014.12.010
  • Tsvetkova M, Macy MW. The social contagion of generosity. PLoS One. 2014;9(2):e87275. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087275

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