Prosocial Behavior: Why Do We Give? Why Do We Care?

Do you donate money to charity? Time and energy to volunteering? 

Are you concerned about social issues, like homelessness, racial discrimination, or gender inequality?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then you’re engaging in prosocial behavior.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at prosocial behavior and culture.

But first, let’s define and understand it.

Origin of the Term, ‘Prosocial Behavior’

The term, ‘prosocial behavior,’ appeared in the ‘70s as an antonym for ‘antisocial behavior.’

It’s defined as demonstrating actions such as cooperation, diplomacy, sharing, helping, feeling empathy, etc.

Basically, prosocial behavior involves caring for other people and your community.

Personal benefits of being a “helper” include boosting one’s mood, reducing stress, and giving your network or community social support.

Reasons for Prosocial Behavior

Aside from the personal benefits of prosocial behaviors, there are other evolutionary and psychological reasons to engage in it. 

  • Reciprocity – Helping others may have evolved from the social norm of reciprocity. When on the receiving end of help, one might feel obliged to help the person in return in their time of need.
  • SocializationEarly child development often includes teachings on kindness, sharing, and helping. These prosocial behaviors may be encouraged as the child grows.
  • Egoism – One might be performatively prosocial, engaging in prosocial behaviors purely to benefit themselves.
  • Survival of the Fittest – Evolution might explain why prosocial behaviors developed. Helping one’s in-group (family, for instance) would ensure survival of your species and/or genetics.

Types of Prosocial Behavior

Researchers have that prosocial behavior can be driven by different motivations.

Here are three distinct types of prosocial behavior:

  • Altruistic – This type of prosocial behavior is not motivated by personal gain. It seeks to help and support others for their sake. Think donating to a cause anonymously.
  • Reactive – This type of prosocial behavior is motivated by individual needs. The individual is acting in response to someone’s specific need. Think supporting a friend when they’re going through a hard time.
  • Proactive – This type of prosocial behavior is motivated by personal gain. The goal of this behavior is to seek status and in-group popularity through “generous” actions. Reciprocity is expected. Think national diplomacy.

With this brief introduction to prosocial behavior, we’ll be discussing how it manifests culturally over the next few weeks in the context of charity, volunteering, and knowledge hiding.

Are You Friendly, Temperamental, or Creative? It May Partly Depend on Where You Live

Is your personality defined by your locale?

It goes without saying that our culture’s values and norms define – or at least influence – each of us.

They determine what is (or should be) important in our lives and, in doing so, drive our motivations.

As this study shows, our culture may even play a role in shaping our personalities.

Big Five Trait Measures

Not only do personality norms differ across national cultures, but they differ across regions within a nation as well.

This study, led by Peter Rentfrow at the University of Cambridge, found three standout regional psychological profiles in the US. 

Researchers took five samples of data through various methods and Big Five trait measures, in a multisample approach taken from different self-reported personality studies collected over 12 years.

Three Psychological Regions in the US

After analyzing responses from more than 1.5 million participants, researchers found three distinct personality types.

  • Cluster 1 – Friendly and Conventional
  • Cluster 2 – Relaxed and Creative
  • Cluster 3 – Temperamental and Uninhibited

The Deep South and Upper Midwest share personality traits identified as “friendly and conventional.”

This is Cluster 1.

Often referred to as “Red” states, this region of Middle America is known for conservative social values and was found to have high levels of Extraversion and low levels of Openness.

Cluster 2, predominantly in the West, is defined as “relaxed and creative.”

The region has a larger population with college degrees, lower levels of Extraversion, and higher levels of Openness.

Other character traits attributed to Cluster 2 are calmness and emotional stability.

Cluster 3, predominantly located in the Northeast, is described as “temperamental and uninhibited.” 

The “Blue” states have low Extraversion and Agreeableness and a high level of Neuroticism.

They also have higher levels of irritability, depression, and stress.

However, they share one personality trait with Cluster 2, in that they’re considered more Open.

The study concludes,

“The psychological profiles were found to cluster geographically and displayed unique patterns of associations with key geographical indicators.”

These psychological clusters may produce the regional variations noted in key indicators such as politics, economics, health, and social attributes.

Selective Migration

While these results may suggest that each region’s culture informs the personality of its residents, selective migration is cited as one possible factor in these regional differences.

This is when someone chooses to move to a locale that complements their needs, personality, and mentality.

For instance, those seeking Openness might settle in (or remain in) a locale known for diversity, while those who are high in Extraversion might settle in (or remain in) a locale where a social network, family, and community are important.

As the study notes, this investigation departs from earlier regional research focusing on voting patterns, economic indicators, cultural stereotypes, etc.

Instead, this study outlines residents’ psychological characteristics, which factor into microlevel PESH metrics via individual-level behaviors.

The Five-Factor Model: Are Gendered Personality Traits Universal?

Do personality traits differ across gender

And do those differences translate across cultures?

Last week, we talked about how age differences in personality follow a universal pattern.

But are gendered personality traits also universal?

This study dives in.

NEO Personality Inventory-Revised

A standard questionnaire has been developed according to the Five Factor Model to provide a systematic assessment of the five major domains of personality in relation to motivational, attitudinal, experiential, interpersonal, and emotional styles.

Defining each domain are six traits/facets.

This questionnaire is known as the NEO-PI-R.

For the 2001 study by Costa, Terracciano, and McCrae, this questionnaire was distributed to college-age and adult men and women in 26 countries to collect a sample size.

Results of Cultural Gender Study

As a reminder, the five factors are Neuroticism (N), Extraversion (E), Openness to Experience (O), Agreeableness (A), and Conscientiousness (C).

The data collected showed that men in the U.S. typically scored higher on E and O, particularly in facets of assertiveness and openness.

Women in the U.S. typically scored higher on N and A, but also scored higher on E and O in facets such as openness to aesthetics and warmth.

There was little difference in C between men and women in the U.S.

When compared to other countries, these gender differences appear universal.

Worldwide, men scored higher in the facets of openness to ideas, excitement seeking, assertiveness, and competence, while women scored higher in the facets of openness to aesthetics, straightforwardness, vulnerability, and anxiety.

Does this mean gender differences are biologically based, or are gender differences universally shaped in this way by each and every culture and thus adapted by each personality?

That’s a question waiting to be answered.

Progressive vs. Traditional

Was there a chasm between more progressive cultures and more traditional cultures regarding the magnitude of gender differences in personality traits?

Yes, but not how you’d expect.

You would think that the gap in gender differences in personality would be reduced in modern, progressive cultures and would be greater in traditional cultures.

But the opposite was found.

Modern European countries like The Netherlands saw a broader gap between genders than traditional countries, like South Korea.

One explanation for this may be the way such traits are attributed.

Robert R. McCrae explains,

“In countries where women are expected to be subservient, they attribute their low Assertiveness to their role as a woman rather than their traits. By contrast, European women who are equally low in Assertiveness identify it as a part of their own personality.”

Further studies might take a closer look at this seeming contradiction to get a clearer idea of this gap.

We’ll talk more about personality profiles of cultures next week.

The Five-Factor Model: Do Personalities Age the Same Way Across Cultures?

Does your culture have a personality?

Let’s use the Five-Factor Model to find out.

Developed in the United States in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the Five-Factor Model (FFM) is an exhaustive taxonomy of personality traits (defined as “tendencies to show consistent patterns of thoughts, feelings, and actions”). 

The personality structure model has been applied in various cultures and is described as universal.

Gender differences in personality and personality attributes related to age – like a boost in conscientiousness and a reduction in openness from adolescence to adulthood – also seem to be universal.

This has led to the FFM being used internationally by psychologists in various functions.

So what is the Five-Factor Model, and what does it mean for cross-cultural studies?

The Five Factors of the Five-Factor Model

We’ve already mentioned two of the factors in the FFM: conscientiousness and openness to experience.

The three others are extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors:

  • Conscientiousness – exhibiting behaviors such as foresight, duty, and responsibility.
  • Openness to experience – exhibiting behaviors that are thoughtful, inquisitive, and show a willingness to meet intellectually challenging tasks.
  • Extraversion – exhibiting behaviors that are energetic, assertive, and gregarious.
  • Agreeableness – exhibiting behaviors that are sympathetic, empathetic, and kind.
  • Neuroticism – exhibiting behaviors that are irritable, moody, and emotionally unstable.

Where is the FFM Used?

This popular trait model of human personality has been used by researchers and practitioners in clinical, social, and industrial-organizational spheres.

It’s also used in cross-cultural research.

One study, for instance, sought to determine if the changes in the mean levels of all five factors between adolescence and the age of 30 were purely American.

The original study found that 

“In terms of personality traits, 30-year-olds resemble 70-year-olds more than 20-year-olds.”

Cross-cultural researchers analyzed similar data from a dozen countries – including Germany, Russia, South Korea, Japan, and Britain – and found that the personality patterns amongst all twelve countries were similar, suggesting a universal maturational process.

As humans meet mid-adulthood, they become less open to new experiences and less enthusiastic, but more altruistic, adjusted, and organized.

This personality trend is common in all societies.

We’ll look at more cultural research regarding the FFM next week.

3, 2, 1…New Year’s Traditions From Around the World, Part II

Goodbye 2022, and hello 2023 – let’s celebrate the new year around the world!

Last year, we talked about New Year’s traditions from Scotland, Spain, and Japan.

This year, we’re heading to the Philippines, Ecuador, and American Samoa to learn of their unique traditions and customs.

Polka Dots in the Philippines

If polka dots are your favorite fashion trend, then the Philippines is where you should ring in the new year.

In the Philippines, where round things represent prosperity, polka dots signify money and fortune.

Needless to say, the fashion of the new year is polka dots, so dress in your finest.

Continuing in this concept, you’ll likely be eating round-shaped fruits as well, which are the centerpiece of the Media Noche (Spanish for “midnight”) – the tradition of a lavish midnight feast, inherited from the Spaniards who once colonized the Philippines.

Burning Effigies in Ecuador

Who wants to burn last year to the ground?

If that’s how you feel, celebrate the new year in Ecuador, where a masked dummy known as the año viejo is made to symbolize the misfortunes of the past year.

At midnight, the sawdust-and-paper effigies are burnt to ashes in the hopes that last year’s misfortunes will disappear in the new year.

Often, the figures are wearing masks of politicians, sports or film stars, cartoon figures, superheroes, animals, and more.

Two-in-One New Year in the South Pacific

Located in the South Pacific Ocean, the last inhabited place on earth to celebrate the New Year is the island of Tutuila in the America Samoa.

The remote tropical island sees only 34,000 visitors annually, and its primary city of Pago Pago is home to fewer than 10,000 people.

Samoan families who have immigrated to other countries often return home to celebrate in homes dressed with flowers and colored papers.

The celebration involves gift-giving, as well as traditional dancing and food.

Its neighboring island of Tonga lies 550 miles away and, lying on the other end of the international dateline, is one of the first countries to ring in the new year. 

So, you have a chance to hop on an 18-minute flight from Tonga to Tutuila to ring in the new year twice!

Christmas Around the World: Interesting Cultural Christmas Characters & Traditions, PART II

Ho, ho, ho, and a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all you readers!

Last year, we talked about Christmas traditions from Italy, the Netherlands, and Austria.

This year, we will explore traditions from countries south of the equator – Australia, Brazil, and Argentina.

Let’s jump right in!

Surfing Santa in Australia

Though it’s summer in Australia at Christmas time and there’s no real snow to be found, Aussies fold in their own fun-in-the-sun Christmas traditions.

For one, Australian Santa surfs.

Abandoning the traditional white-fur-lined red fleece suit and black winter boots, you’re more likely to see Santa in board shorts on the beach on Christmas day.

And instead of the roast turkey or ham spread found in some western countries, Aussies pack in the prawns for their Christmas meal.

This requires a “prawn run,” where an unfortunate family member will be sent to stand in line at the nearest packed seafood store in the morning to buy the freshest grub.

Thirteenth Salary in Brazil

While Christmas Day may be the more lively celebration in some countries, Christmas Eve is where it’s at in Brazil.

Often people dress up in their finest to visit their friends in the afternoon and hold a huge celebration with their families in the evening.

Dinner is served around 10 PM, and midnight is when presents are exchanged or “Missa de Gallo” (Midnight Mass) is attended by the religious.

There’s no chimney-diving for Papai Noel in Brazil; instead, he drops on by to replace stockings left on windowsills with presents.

And to help Papai Noel provide gifts for Christmas, most employees are given a “thirteenth salary” (two months’ pay) in November/December – a scheme introduced by former president João Goulart in the ‘60s to boost the economy before Christmas time.

Three Kings Day in Argentina

While you can enjoy incredible fireworks displays at midnight on Christmas Eve in Argentina, as well as small paper lanterns called “globos” sent into the sky, you’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to open your presents.

Three Kings Day, celebrated on January 6, is when most families receive their gifts in Argentina.

Instead of Santa or Papa Noel delivering the gifts to children, the Three Kings – who delivered gifts to the baby Jesus – will leave them in children’s shoes.

Despite this tradition, Santa is growing popular in Argentina – only there, he is known as “El Gordo de Navidad,” literally translated to “The Christmas Fat.”

As this list shows, wherever you are this Christmas, you’re bound to experience new and exciting ways to celebrate the holiday!

Is It Worth the Risk?: Different Cultural Takes on Risk Perception

Are some cultures greater risk-takers than others?

This study dove in to find out.

Analyzing the data of respondents from Germany, Poland, the US, and China, the study measured respondents’ risk preference for pricing financial options.

These are their findings.

Hypothesis

Studies have shown a correlation between a culture’s position on the individualism-collectivism scale and its risk preference.

Called the Cushion Hypothesis (Weber & Hsee, 1998), the theory suggests that those from collectivist cultures are more likely to take financial risks.

Why?

Due to the perceived support from their collectivist culture and, thus, the reduced negative consequences such a risk might have on the individual.

While this study did arrive at the same conclusion – that the collectivist society of China was less risk-averse than its American counterpart – it did identify a more specific reason for it.

Risk-Averse

The majority of respondents in all four cultures were identified as risk-averse (i.e. they were willing to pay more for options they saw as “less risky”).

When you look at a risk-return conceptualization, it is natural that most people, no matter what culture, would perceive risk this way.

When risk preference was evaluated in the traditional expected-utility framework, Chinese respondents were considerably less risk-averse in pricing than Americans.

But what this study found was that the difference in risk preference may not be due to a cultural attitude toward perceived risk; instead, it appears largely due to the perception of the financial options’ risk itself.

Chinese participants simply did not find the options as risky as their counterparts.

Conclusion

The study states:

“Chinese respondents were closest to risk neutrality in their pricing of the financial options and judged the risk of these options to be the lowest, but were not significantly less perceived-risk averse.

“American and Germans offered the lowest prices and also perceived the risk of the options to be highest, but were not significantly more perceived-risk averse.”

One might practically apply this knowledge to commerce and negotiation when working across these particular cultures, affording both negotiators joint gains.

The study concludes that while cultures do vary on a collectivism-individualism continuum which undoubtedly impacts perceived risk, other cultural factors in risky decision-making – locus of control, differences in achievement motivation, etc. – may also come into play in risk preference.

Further studies into the subject might provide more insight.

Church of Diego Maradona: How One Culture Made a Footballer a God

His nickname in Argentina is “El Dios” – or “The God.” 

Both a play on his jersey number, 10 (“El Diez”), and a nod to the way Argentines viewed Maradona: as a god on the field, masterful in his footwork.

He took Argentina to victory over Mexico in the 1986 World Cup.

One of his shots in that tournament is considered the “goal of the century.”

So how does a football player go from being drafted to becoming a worshipped deity?

This is Diego Maradona’s rise to glory.

Rise of Maradona, “The Golden Boy”

Plucked from obscurity, Maradona rose to become a hero of the lower classes of Argentina.

Before long, he became the youngest Argentine to debut on the national team at 16 years old.

His mastery lay in his control over the ball and his ability to score and create opportunities for team members to score as well.

At 5’5”, his low center of gravity helped him maneuver and perform better than most, though his real value was his presence and leadership on the field.

He soon was deemed “El Pibe de Oro” – or “The Golden Boy.”

The 1986 World Cup win in the quarterfinal against England involved one goal that is now referred to as the “Hand of God.”

This is because, though the referee believed the goal was struck with his head, it was actually scored with Maradona’s hand.

Though he struggled with addiction which led to some controversy, he is regularly considered one of the top players (if not the top) of the 20th century.

Church of Diego Maradona

The fanaticism of Maradona in Argentina led to the creation of a parody church in his name.

The Church of Maradona was founded in 1998 on Maradona’s 38th birthday in Rosario, Argentina, by three of his fans.

Christmas is celebrated on Maradona’s birthday in October, and other memorable dates in Maradona’s life (including that “Hand of God” goal) are marked as holidays by the church as well.

One of its founders, Alejandro Verón, is quoted as saying:

“I have a rational religion and that’s the Catholic Church and I have a religion passed on my heart and passion and that’s Diego Maradona.”

Maradona’s birth in 1960 begins the world, with every year after designated d.D. (‘después de Diego’ in Spanish, or ‘after Diego’).

There are even ten commandments in the religion, the first of which is, “The ball is never soiled,” and the second, “Love football above all else.”

They thereafter become more Diego-focused, with the last commandment being, “Name your first son ‘Diego’.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, followers of the Church of Diego have spread to Mexico and Brazil and as far as Italy and Spain.

This lines up, as Maradona led club teams to the gold in Spain and Italy.

The idol worship is real and so are the church’s rituals, but its worshippers view their church as all in good fun.

Still, this level of fanaticism raises the question: how did Maradona capture the imaginations of Argentine society?

“The Golden Boy” passed away in 2020, at the age of 60, from cardiac arrest.

After his death, Buenos Aires University cultural professor, Pablo Alabarces, said of Maradona

“In our collective imagination Diego Maradona represents a certain glorious past, he’s a symbol of what we might have been.”

Is this how? Is he a symbol of Argentina’s glorious past?

Whatever the case, he was mourned by many, and his legend and death were memorialized not only in Argentina but across the globe.

History of the World Cup: How the Game Became Ingrained in World Culture

The World Cup, the most-watched sporting event in the world, draws billions of viewers.

More than half of the global population tunes into the World Cup final.

How did this sporting event capture the imaginations of the international community?

It all began with the Olympic Games.

The End & The Beginning

After debuting at the 1900 Olympics in Paris, football was dropped from the Olympics’ program in 1932, after a dispute between FIFA and the International Olympic Committee.

The FIFA committee decided to put on their own global event and chose Uruguay as the World Cup’s first host, after the nation won back-to-back gold medals at the 1924 and 1928 Olympics.

This put a crunch on European teams, as Europe was experiencing a depression, and many players did not want to risk losing their jobs (unlike today, players weren’t awarded hundreds of thousands+ then) to attend the tournament.

This resulted in many favored European teams (England, Spain, Italy, Germany, Holland, etc.) opting out of the world’s first-ever World Cup.

To appeal to European teams to participate, Uruguay offered to assist in travel expenses, which drew France, Belgium, Yugoslavia, and Romania.

Some leaders seemed to know that this was the beginning of something big.

Romanian King Carol, for example, provided players (whom he chose personally) a three-month vacation from their work and guaranteed employment upon their return.

With the roster set, the 1930 World Cup kicked off in Montevideo on July 13.

Yesterday & Today

In 2018, more than half of the global population – some 3.57 billion viewers – watched the World Cup final.

The first world cup final was viewed by 93,000 spectators.

93,000 football fans watched the competition’s two favorites, Uruguay and Argentina, battle it out to a 4–2 win for the host country.

Today, five-time World Cup winner, Brazil, is favored to win the 2022 World Cup.

But the games are not yet over…

Does Cross-Cultural Competency Improve Job Performance?

Organizations may hire expatriates in high-tech positions based on their technological aptitude rather than on their cross-cultural or personal merit.

On the other end, expatriates may accept a position without being cross-culturally competent or familiar with the country.

A study of expatriates in the high-tech industry reveals some interesting findings on the subject.

Let’s take a look.

What is Cross-Cultural Competency?

The study defines cross-cultural competence as follows:

“the ability of individuals to work effectively and live normally in different cultural contexts, and…to adopt adaptive thinking patterns and behaviors in the host country.”

Using collected questionnaire survey data, the study identifies expatriate challenges in their new role and proposes ways in which expatriates can adjust psychologically.

Challenges

Challenges to expatriates include:

When these challenges lead to excessive pressure, psychological and even physical symptoms can occur.

That isn’t to say that all pressure is bad, however. 

An appropriate application of pressure can drive employees to progress in their work smoothly and help the adaptation process.

How Adaptation Can Help

Those expatriate employees who adapt to their host country’s culture and customs participate more in the workplace and find more ways to alleviate stress.

Moreover, those employees with high cross-cultural competency also adjust to their host country more smoothly and have a higher job performance.

Setback Period

There is a setback period when expatriates first begin working in their new role.

Unforeseen situations coupled with cultural incompetency and potential incomplete assignments lead to wariness of expatriate employees.

The expatriate needs to navigate the setback period successfully in order to adapt to their cross-cultural environment and achieve in their job performance.

Cross-cultural skills will help this transition, as the expatriate will sooner accept the foreign culture, the environment, and their co-workers.

The Study’s Findings

To achieve cross-cultural competence, the expatriate must initially recognize the differences between old and new environments in order to spot potential conflicts between the two and find ways to overcome them in order to integrate.

Using the reported data, the study found that the stronger an expatriate employee’s level of cross-cultural competence, the better their performance in both the host country and in their job.

Job involvement is also improved by the employee’s ability to adjust to customs. 

This is likely due to the fact that those who can adjust to the host country generally release more work stress and enjoy greater life satisfaction.

Moreover, those able to adjust to work contexts better feel less frustrated and achieve more in their role.

An accumulation of negative pressures can lead to poor job performance, while positive pressures can drive expatriates to achieve individual and work success.

The bottom line is: cross-cultural competency can improve job performance by smoothing the transition and reducing stress.