Social psychology (psychology)/Lectures/Prosocial/Notes
Introduction[edit | edit source]
This lecture introduced socio-psychological theory and research about prosocial behaviour and altruism. These are different concepts, with altruism being a subset of prosocial behaviour in which a prosocial behaviour is undertaken without any thought of personal reward. Prosocial behaviour refers to any behavioural act which further the interests of a group by improving its cohesion, quality of relationships, etc. What is deemed prosocial by one group may be considered by other groups to be antisocial. Antisocial behaviours are those judged to be destructive to group relationships.
An important psychological and philosophical issue for debate is whether there is any such thing as true altruism. The closer one looks at the possible explanations and motivations for prosocial behaviour, the more it seems that its possible to find non-altruistic explanations for prosocial behaviours. This is a rich topic for debate. A related issue is whether altruism is only evident (if at all) in humans or whether other animals are also altruistic e.g., what do you think about this video of a gorilla rescuing a kid at a zoo (1 min)?
Prosocial behaviour can be contrasted with antisocial behaviour which are acts that undermine or otherwise negatively affect social relations within a community.
When would you help?[edit | edit source]
What factors influence whether you help or not and why?
[edit | edit source]
The Baumeister and Bauman (2008) textbook criticises many other social psychology textbook chapters on prosocial behaviour for being overly focused on "helping" and neglecting focus on the prosocial role of obedience and conformity (Note that we discussed obedience and conformity earlier in the lecture on social thinking and, more specifically, on social influence).
[edit | edit source]
Reasons for prosocial behaviour include:
Forgiveness[edit | edit source]
Given that often "bad" is stronger than "good", forgiveness of another for causing harm can be a particularly notable prosocial contribution. Forgiveness involves letting go of anger, resentment, and blaming of one's emotional distress as caused by another's antisocial behaviours.
Game theory[edit | edit source]
In the previous lecture on Groups and Relationships, the commons dilemma and the prisoners' dilemma were discussed as examples of iterative, experimental studies conducted to examine the sociodynamics of competition and cooperation. The collective results of our myriad relational games might be considered as a group's social capital. The net results of various interactions can be loosely understood as negative, neutral, or positive - see the helpful tables and diagrams here: . Also of relevance here is transactional analysis, Robert S. De Ropp's "The Master Game", Manning-Clark's straighteners and enlargers, etc. Essentially these and other such "game theory" schemes seek to describe and understand common sociodynamic relational patterns and their consequences.
Obedience and conformity[edit | edit source]
Without obedience and conformity to a rule of law, our social lives would be far more chaotic. Thus, obeying and conforming to social rules is vital for creating and maintaining a community. However, communities evolve and change, thus rules and norms often need to similarly evolve. And there is a danger in a group members becoming overly compliant and conforming, such as classically illustrated in Milgram's 1950's studies of obedience. Also, see Asch's conformity experiments. A more recent example of obedience is a TV show in which contestants were asked to torture. 80% of contestants went to the very end - i.e, administered the ultimate, potentially lethal shock ( BBC News, 2010;  Telegraph.co.uk, 2010).
Motivations for helping[edit | edit source]
Batson (1991) proposed that empathy motivates people to reduce other people’s distress by helping or comforting:
Negative relief state theory is the proposition that people help others in order to relieve their own distress.
Personal determinants of helping[edit | edit source]
Emotion and helping[edit | edit source]
In general, positive mood increases likelihood of helping, whereas negative mood tends to decrease likelihood of helping. Note, however, that there are logical exceptions to this tendency (e.g., if it will be costsly to one's positive mood one may not help, or if it will relieve one's negative state, one may be more likely to help).
Interpersonal determinants of helping[edit | edit source]
Gender[edit | edit source]
The larger the group, the less likely people are to help because of:
Five steps to helping[edit | edit source]
Five steps (or barriers) to helping have been proposed (Latane & Darley):
Good Samaritan study[edit | edit source]
Darley and Batson (1973)'s classic study found that time (in a rush or not in a rush) had the largest effect. Those in a rush were much less likely to help. Summary of the study.
Bystander-calculus model[edit | edit source]
Piliavin, Dovidio, Gaertner, and Clark (1981) offer a social exchange theory model for the bystander effect, according to which bystanders calculate the (perceived) costs & benefits of providing help in three stages:
How can we increase helping?[edit | edit source]
Summary and conclusion[edit | edit source]