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Prosocial Behavior

Course Code
Ingrid L.Stefanovic

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Lecture 22: Prosocial Behavior
Lecture Overview
x Co-operative Dilemmas
x Prosocial Behaviour & Altruism
x When Do We Help?
x Why Do We Help?
Co-operative Dilemmas
x Situations where the most beneficial action for an individual will be harmful for the
collective group
x Commonly discussed social dilemmas:
o Escalation of Conflict
o Tragedy of the Commons
Escalation of Conflict
x Interpersonal conflict feeds itself and escalates if one side does not begin concession
Escalation of Conflict in International Relations
x Stimulus: Country A accidentally bombs a civilian area of Country B during a training
o Bomb them back
Country B is vindicated, but they are now at war with Country A
o Accept apology
Country B takes a hit in many ways, but they maintain peaceful relations
with Country A
Usually conflict builds on itself when aggressive behavior keeps on being matched between two
opposing sides. Somebody has to decide not to match aggression to stop the escalation of
Tragedy of the Commons
x A co-operative dilemma in which everyone takes from a common pool of goods that will
replenish itself if used in moderation but disappear if overused
o Example: sheep grazing ± In England there used to be common fields were
farmers could bring their sheep to graze, however if any farmer had their sheep
graze there all the time, the grass would disappear
x Why do we take more than our share?

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o Anchoring and Adjustment Heuristic
Desired share is used as an anchor
Do not sufficiently adjust down (and results in taking more than your fair
o Size of commons is not readily estimable
Taking more than our share is more common when we cannot estimate
accurately how much of the resource there is to go around
x When do we take our fair share?
o Both the size of the commons and the group that is sharing it are easily
Pizza- comes in 12 slices, if there is 6 people it is very easy to decide what
share of the food is fair for each person
o The size of an equal share is explicitly stated
x A situation where two people must make a collectively dependent decision without
x A special case of John 1DVK¶VGame Theory
Two prisoners are caught committing a crime and are brought into separate integration
rooms to try and get them confess to the crime. Prisoner A and prisoner B can either
confess or not confess to the crime. If neither of them confess, than they each get 1 year
in jail. If both confess, they get 20 years in jail each. If only one prisoner confesses and
turns in the other person as well, they will get parole and no time in jail, while the other
prisoner will get life in prison. If the other person has confessed, then you would
confess either, in order to only get 1 year in prison. The idea is that you are not sure what
actions can have drastic implications.
x Strategies that maximize outcomes LQSULVRQHU¶VGLOHPPDJDPHV:
o Winner: Simple Tit-for-Tat strategy
Co-operate on first round
x Defect as soon as opponent defects, and only begin cooperating if
the other person begins cooperating
o When game is about to end (last trial):

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Prosocial Behaviour
x Action performed with the goal of benefiting another person
o Seems to be situationally driven
o Prosocial behavior can mean helping another person for selfish or unselfish
reasons, as long at the behavior involves helping another person, it is prosocial
behaviour, no matter what the goal is of the person who is helping
x Helping done purely out of a desire to help another person
o Does not benefit the self
o May even involve a cost to the self
When Do We Help?
x The situation can influence whether we will help another person (Altruism) or not
(Bystander Apathy)
x Situational Factors in Helping:
o Mood
o Spare time
o Environment
o Number of Bystanders
o Relationship with Person In Need
x Mood affects helping behaviour
x Good news:
o Both good and bad moods increase helping relative to neutral mood
Positive Mood & Helping
x Isen & Levin (1972)
x Method:
x Participants were random shoppers at a shopping mall
x Positive mood induced or not:
o Positive mood induction: Left a dime in a pay phone
o Control: No dime
x Observe other person (confederate) drop papers after leaving phone booth
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