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.
- Socialization – Early 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 and volunteering.