A behavior is considered prosocial when it is intended to help other people. People with prosocial behavior care about the rights, feelings, and well-being of others. Prosocial behaviors include feeling empathy for others, caring about them, and behaving in ways that help or benefit other people. It consists of helping, comforting, sharing and cooperating with other people.
Prosocial behavior is difficult to understand because normally people who engage in this type of behavior tend to be costly to oneself although it is beneficial to others. It is even possible that some people risk their lives to help others, even for strangers who know nothing! Why would people be able to do this kind of thing? There are a few reasons why people behave this way:
- Behaviors that are encouraged during childhood and adolescence. Adults encourage children to be kind and helpful to others.
- Helping others makes it more possible for others to survive and the human species to progress.
- People often help those with whom they have a bond of some kind.
- The norm of reciprocity enters the picture: if someone does something for someone else, the other person will help in return (helping others builds reciprocal kindness)
- Self-esteem is improved
- It is done solely out of altruism
Influences of prosocial behavior
The characteristics of the situation can also have an impact on whether or not people participate in prosocial actions. The bystander effect is a clear example of how a situation can affect whether or not one person helps another.
The bystander effect occurs when a person does not help a person when they need it even though they are in front of the person who requires the help. If other people are present, people may not help by thinking that others will.
Variables that contribute to or interfere with prosocial behaviors
There are some variables that help or reduce prosocial behaviors. It is good to know them so that you can take them into account now and in the future:
- The more people present, the more the amount of personal responsibility that people feel in a situation diminishes. This is known as responsibility dysfunction and therefore people are less likely to help in an emergency situation.
- People may feel like they don’t know how to act and expect others to do it first to copy the behavior, especially if what is happening seems ambiguous. If no one else reacts, then people are less likely to react as well.
- People may fear being judged by others when they go into action. For this reason, sometimes there are those who do not help because of “what others will say”. You may believe that your help was not wanted or that it would not be correct. To avoid being judged by others, people may not take action.
For a person to have a prosocial behavior, they must take into account these 5 basic keys:
- Notice what’s going on
- Interpret what happens as an emergency
- Experiencing feelings of responsibility
- Know that you have skills to help
- Make a conscious choice about the help that can be offered
Prosocial behavior vs altruism
The altruism is sometimes seen as a form of prosocial behavior but who differs from this thought. While it is true that prosocial behavior is viewed as helping behavior, it confers benefits on the self. On the other hand, altruism is a pure form of help where the only motivation is the concern of the person who needs that help, regardless of anything other than helping.