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Prosocial Behavior and Its Factors


Human beings can embrace various ethical values and principles to help others. The term “prosocial behavior” is any form of action undertaken to help or support others (Piff, Dietze, Feinberg, Stancato, & Keltner, 2015). Various concepts are underlying the idea of prosocial behavior. The first concept is empathy and altruism. The empathy-altruism concept explains why people decide to help others. According to the hypothesis, empathy guides individuals to offer support without expecting anything in return. For example, I have been helping several people such as the needy and orphans. The motivation for my empathic behavior is to help other individuals without getting paid.

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The second concept that informs prosocial behavior is known as social exchange. The social exchange theory indicates that human beings will help others when their gains or benefits appear to outweigh the costs of supporting the needs of the targeted individual (Piff et al., 2015). The concept is founded on the assertion that human behaviors are guided by the desire to maximize their gains while at the same time minimizing expenses. The concept indicates that social support is critical because every individual will also be in need in the future. More often than not, the helper is assured that he or she might get similar support in the future. For example, there is a time when I accompanied one of my neighbors to the hospital. I did so because I knew I could also need similar support in the future. This theory, therefore, explains how prosocial behaviors are motivated.

Factors that determine prosocial behavior

When people step up to address the needs of others, they are usually guided by situational determinants. One of the major factors influencing such a decision is the “bystander effect”. This is a phenomenon whereby an individual fails to help a victim because there are other people at the scene (Piff et al., 2015). The number of individuals or bystanders at the scene will be inversely proportional to the desire to help. A good example is when I found two children fightings. I intervened by encouraging the children to stop fighting and solve their problems in a better manner. Sincerely speaking, I would have found it hard to help the children if there were many bystanders at the scene. I was therefore touched by the conflict and chose to support the children.

The second factor that determines whether (or not) an individual will help others is communal versus exchange relationships. This factor is grouped into both communal and exchange relationships (Aronson, Wilson, Akert, & Sommers, 2016). The exchange-communal complex indicates that an individual will offer help to receive similar support and eventually improve other people’s welfare. I believe that these relationships have been guiding me to help others. For instance, I have always been supporting the poor in my community (Klein, 2016). I always do this because I expect others to help those who are in need. It is also appropriate to support the welfare of every person in the community.

Promoting prosocial behavior

Prosocial behavior can occur more frequently when different community members are guided and empowered using several concepts. For instance, powerful campaigns encouraging people to support others without expecting anything in return can promote prosocial behavior. The idea can be supported by religious leaders, community workers, and human service professionals. The second example that can be used to promote prosocial behavior is promoting cohesion. When more people in society are empowered to have shared values, chances are high that they will be willing to support one another (Aronson et al., 2016). The third approach or example that can promote this behavior is the use of social rituals or practices. A community that embraces the power of empathy and altruism will be characterized by prosocial behaviors. Various social values such as love, compassion, and sympathy can be promoted in a given community (Aronson et al., 2016). Such attributes will make it easier for more people to engage in prosocial behavior. A given society can embrace these values to support the wellbeing of its members.

Quality that affects a person’s engagement in prosocial behavior

Piff et al. (2015) indicate that personal characteristics and qualities will affect engagement in different prosocial behaviors. One of these qualities is cultural differences. A personal culture will dictate how an individual decides to engage in prosocial behavior. For example, my cultural belief encourages people to help those in need even if they are from a different race or ethnicity. This belief or difference does not hinder my decision whenever engaging in prosocial behavior (Aronson et al., 2016). Unfortunately, many people might not support other people who are from a different cultural group.

The second quality that affects a person’s engagement in prosocial behavior is his or her altruistic personality. Positive altruistic behavior will encourage an individual to help others without expecting any reward. I always support and help many people who are in need. For example, there is a time when I helped a person who had fainted (Klein, 2016). Although I had never met this individual before, I chose to take him to the hospital. This practice explains why my altruistic personality guides me to help others.

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Aronson, E., Wilson, T., Akert, R., & Sommers, R. (2016). Social psychology (9th ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Klein, N. (2016). Prosocial behavior increases perceptions of meaning in life. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1(1), 1-8. Web.

Piff, P., Dietze, P., Feinberg, M., Stancato, D., & Keltner, D. (2015). Awe, the small self, and prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108(6), 883-899. Web.

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