Chapter 13 – Altruism and Prosocial Behaviour
Prosocial behaviour – is any behaviour that has the goal of helping another person.
Altruism – is helping without expectation of personal gain.
People sometimes act in altruistic ways to help someone, even at a great personal cost.
This happens when such behaviour will help ensure the survival of their genes, which can
then be passed on.
Kinship selection – is the idea that we’re more likely to help those we are genetically related to.
Findings indicated that relationship factors, including emotional closeness and similarity,
influence helping, in part because genetic factors lead to these relationship factors. In
other words, we help those who are similar to us and emotionally close.
According to the reciprocal prosocial behaviour perspective, people help others to
increase the odds that they, in turn, will be helped by those others.
Because helping others leads them to reciprocate, this type of cooperation among group
members, regardless of their genetic connection, increases survival.
Men are more likely than women to help in situations that call for brave, heroic
Men and women are more helpful in situations where helping is viewed as gender-role
It was found that agreeableness is the characteristic that predicts altruism.
Kin altruism – is behaving in a way that benefits a genetic relative’s chances of survival or
reproduction at some cost to one’s own chances.
Kin altruism is correlated negatively with emotional stability, whereas reciprocal altruism
and emotional stability are correlated positively.
In general, people show an increase in empathy and prosocial behaviour as they mature.
Empathy – is the ability to understand other people’s perspectives and respond emotionally to
other people’s experiences.
People with higher levels of empathy engage in more prosocial behaviour, including
donating money to charitable causes and spending time helping people in need. Moral reasoning – is a personality factor that describes the extent to which a person’s willingness
to help depends on larger moral standards rather than the person’s needs and the expected
consequences for him or her of helping.
The use of higher level reasoning is associated with greater empathy and altruism.
Parent who use positive behaviour, including positive feelings toward their child as well
as positive discipline strategies; create more prosocial behaviour in their children over
People who hold strong and conservative religious beliefs are very likely to help those
who they believe deserve help, but not to help those whom they consider undeserving.
Religious fundamentalists are more likely to help some people, but less likely to help
those whose behaviour contradicts behaviours that are acceptable to their religion.
Decision-Making Process Model
Decision-making process model – is a model that describes helping behaviour as a function of
five distinct steps.
1. Emergencies are rare and unusual events, people don’t have a lot of experience in
2. Emergencies themselves differ widely, even when people have direct experience in
handling one type of emergency, they’re not likely to have experience in handling other
types of emergencies, which all require different types of help.
3. Emergencies are unforeseen.
Helping behaviour occurs only when a person takes five distinct steps – and if a person at any
point fails to take a particular step, he or she will not provide aid:
1. Notice something is happening
2. Interpret it as an emergency
Pluralistic ignorance – in the context of helping, it is the assumption that each person has that
because others are not reacting, there is no emergency.
3. Take responsibility for providing help
Diffusion of responsibility – is the belief that other people present in a situation will assume
responsibility, which contributes to the bystander effect.
Bystander effect – is a situation whereby people are less likely to help in emergency situations
when there are other people present than if the person who could help is alone, resulting in a
decreased likelihood of help being given. As the number of potential helpers increases, the likelihood of help decreases.
People who believe that they’re the only one who could provide help to a person are more
likely to help.
4. Decide how to help
People with relevant skills help more than people without such skills or training.
5. Provide help
This can be difficult because of audience inhibition. People can be reluctant to help
because they might fear making a bad impression in front of others, either by appearing
stupid or overly cautious.
Arousal/Cost Reward Model
Arousal/cost reward model – is a model that describes helping behaviour as caused in part by the
physiological arousal that people experience when they see someone in need of help and in part
by their calculation of the costs and rewards of providing such help.
Example: if you hear a baby crying, you might be motivated to pick up the baby so that it will
stop crying, not due to any particular concern for the child, but rather to avoid having to hear the
Individuals who experience shock and distress at watching something unpleasant may be
motivated to help simply to reduce their own distress.
Even when people experience unpleasant arousal in response to seeing others in pain,
they still compute the relative costs and benefits of helping before deciding to take action.
Impact of Cost
Yes, the costs of helping influence altruistic behaviour.
Teaching someone about the personal costs of prosocial behaviour can lead to a decrease
Impact of Benefits
The benefits or rewards of prosocial behaviour increase helping. That’s why parents give
an allowance – to reward for helping around the house.
When a reward is given, it undermines children’s spontaneous helping.
Giving a reward leads children to attribute their altruistic behaviour to external, as
opposed to internal, factors. Mood
Good mood effect – is when people are in a good mood, they are more likely to help.
In fact, tipping is better on sunny days, presumably because we’re happier when the sun
People who are in good moods want to maintain them, and seeing someone else who is in
need could destroy the mood
People who are in a good mood focus more on the positive aspects of situations, such as
the benefits of helping, rather than the negative aspects.
People who are in a good mood experience increased self-awareness, which in turn leads
us to try to match our behaviour to our internal values.
Bad moods can also increase the likelihood of prosocial behaviour.
Bad moods can increase helping because we have a desire to make up for whatever we
did that caused this negative feeling.
Bad moods can also increase helping even when we aren’t trying to make up for our own
wrongdoing. People who are asked to imagine the grief and worry that one of their close
friends would experience if the friend was dying of cancer later help more.
When we have been socially excluded, we are less likely to help.
People can increase their altruistic behaviour when such behaviour is modelled for them
by their parents, peers, or even media figures.
Seeing other people engage in helping behaviour gives us role models to follow, shows
us the rewards of helping, and reminds us of the value of helping to society.
People who see moderately helpful models and are then asked to help may agree to the
request but judge their motivation for such behaviour to be externally biased.
Urban overload hypothesis – is the hypothesis that people who live in urban areas are constantly
exposed to stimulation, which in turn leads them to decrease their awareness of their
People in small towns are more likely than those in urban areas to help others in a variety
of small ways, including giving the time of day, participating in a survey, providing