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Pennsylvania State University
Nicholas Pearson

Chapter 11 - Prosocial Behavior - Lecture Notes for 3/27/2012 Prosocial Behavior When and Why Do People Help Others? • In 1982, Anne Herbert coined the phrase, "Random Acts of Kindness" • Perform random kind acts for others with no intention of being repaid o Paying tolls for others o Shoveling snow for neighbors, anonymously o Scrubbing graffiti off of park benches Prosocial Acts vs. Altruism • Prosocial behavior - Any act that is intended to benefit others • Altruism - Any prosocial act that is without benefit to the altruist or that is done without self-interest 1. Only SOME prosocial behavior is altruistic 2. Anonymous Types & Frequencies of Helping Behaviors among College Students (McGuire, 1994) • Casual Helping  Implies that you’re not really harming yourself or costing too much; Little effort 1. Ex: Helping w/ homework or schoolwork 2. Ex: Lending a book, notes, etc. • Substantial Personal Helping 1. Ex: Bringing or sending flowers, a card, or a small gift 2. Ex: Visiting someone from out of town 3. Ex: Giving a ride for a long distance • Emotional Helping (can have casual or substantial)  More ambiguous 1. Ex: Listening to someone talk thru a problem 2. Ex: Giving advice about a situation 3. Ex: “Being there” for someone; providing loyalty • Emergency Helping (can have casual or substantial)  Need assistance immediately; specific acts 1. Ex: Starting a car or changing a tire for someone 2. Ex: Taking care of someone who is sick 3. Ex: Walking someone home at night Why Do People Help Others? • Basic Motives • Evolutionary Psychology  as we have evolved, helping behavior has continued survival; more helpful people survived o Kin selection  (We are driven to pass down our genetic material to the next generation)  We help our closest relatives  Ex: Honey bees: kicked out bees that weren’t part of their environment  Offspring are seen as the most important people to help  More likely to help young people o Norm of reciprocity  "I help you, you help me"  “I help you find food, you help me find food, we both survive & pass on our genetic material” o Learning social norms  Genetically programmed to learn social norms (e.g. altruism) • Social Exchange o We do what we do in order to maximize our benefits & minimize our costs • Helping can reward in 3 ways o Increase the probability of reciprocated helping o Relieve personal distress of the witness o Help us to gain social approval & self-worth • If Costs > Rewards we will not help • No assumption of a genetic base to helping (all about costs v. benefits) • Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis o Empathy is understanding another’s experience from their point of view • If we feel empathy for someone, we will help even if we get no reward • If we do not feel empathy then Social Exchange concerns will come into play. o A lot
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