Prosocial Motives, Emotions and Behavior

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1901 Words
Date:  2021-05-20

Human behavior is defined as dynamic and ever changing; over the years different scholars have taken matters into their hands by studying and gathering research based on the behavior of man in the society. Writing and gathering research over time facilitates a better understanding of the subject of study, as well as a platform where the researcher can assess and understand the evolution of behavior and the reasons behind it. Writing and research emphasizes more concentration on the subject being examined, giving way to better understanding and a better approach to identifying facts that other researchers have not. One would argue that social behavior being dynamic requires continuous writing and research as a process for a better understanding of the human behavior as well as factors that motivate the behavior.

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A factor that prompted prosocial behavior yesterday may not facilitate a similar mode of action tomorrow, thereby continuous writing and research over a period provide time for better analysis, assessment, and conclusion. Prosocial behavior is defined as any action that has intent in helping others. Prosocial behavior involves the fulfillment of another individual wants or needs at the expense of a persons desires and requirements. The type of behavior may include donating time, effort or money, volunteering, helping in an emergency or cooperating rather than competing. Prosocial behavior is a mode of action that has been present since the beginning of the society, over the years social psychologists have attempted to understand the main motivating factors behind the behavior. The paper will analyze different factors that motivate prosocial behavior in the society today. The writer is expected to fully explain who, when and why people indulge in prosocial activity and the different factors influencing this behavior both at the group level and the individual level.


March 13, 1964, marked the birth of the scientific study of prosocial behavior by social psychologists. The murder of Kitty Genovese that had 38 witnesses and no one helped in Kew Gardens, Queens New York, left the world in shock questioning the behavior of man causing a stir in the study of man and prosocial behavior patterns. Research has stated that behavior is often a secondary factor of the society. In other words, one would argue that an individuals behavior may be related to the mother culture and the way of life led by that particular community. During the early 19th century social psychologists attempted to understand the motives behind prosocial behavior and the main factors influencing this behavior in the society. Defined as a narrowly focused, social psychologists had identified negative emotions and antisocial behavior as the motivating factors behind the prosocial behavior. However, this thesis conclusion only favored the argument towards anti-prosocial behavior, failing to provide the factors motivating prosocial behavior in the society.

Through the continuous process of writing and research, scholars have achieved a wider approach with a variety of factors to explain prosocial behavior. The study of prosocial behavior has expanded to cover for other positive factors such as empathy, compassion, gratitude and forgiveness as motivating factors in prosocial behavior. Prosocial behavior is defined as uncertain because it is tough to predict whether an individual will help or not. Research argues that human beings have an innate capacity for prosocial behavior, this point out that prosocial behavior is a voluntary action that an individual expresses driven by natural emotions. However, the attachment to prosocial behavior may be blocked or overpowered by selfish, neurotic or culturally gained attitudes and values.

An individuals genes, personality, and past experiences influence the degree of a persons perception of empathy, generosity, cruelty and destructive behavior. Altruism is one possible factor motivating prosocial behavior. Altruism is defined as the motivation factor of helping others without any thought of what one may get in return. An individual will assist another person without the thought or need for a favor in return. Empathy-altruism is a theoretical approach to predicting the motivation towards prosocial behavior. The Empathy-Altruism theory argues that people are more likely to help others if they feel empathy for them; significantly this states that individuals are likely to help others when they feel empathy for other persons. Example an individual changing a flat tire on the highway on a rainy day will prompt an own passing by to consider the situation. Considering the situation, a person is likely to help as a result of empathy felt for the individual.

As motivating factor understanding is attached to the emotions of a person, being able to consider another persons situation motivates for prosocial behavior. According to the situation the person may help (Why), because of empathy felt for the individual struggling alone in a situation. A person is likely to go and help change the tire (How and When), without expecting any favor in return. One would go forward and argue that past experiences may also contribute to the prosocial behavior. An individuals past experiences may highly influence the individual to gain positive, motivating factors that would facilitate prosocial behavior. Example if a person is struggling to change a flat tire on a rainy day, another individual may intervene to help based on emotions experienced by the individual may be in a similar situation. Social psychologists have argued that a person may experience the Reciprocity Norm that prompts for reciprocity of an action earlier taken.

The Reciprocity Norm states that if an individual gets something, they must give something back in return. The reciprocity norm influences a notion of payback in every action taken in the society; a person is likely to help under the assumption that he/she will get something back in return. As a motivating factor, the reciprocity norm focuses on the approach to prosocial behavior by some individuals; some people may not help any gain in return. Similarly, a person can help another person with an objective that the individual may assist in some way within the future to come. On hand, a person would also be motivated to help if another person had aided in an experience. This would be a way of repaying a favor done by another individual to the person or an individual close or related to the person. The reciprocity norm acts as a motivating factor to prosocial behavior; people will help others in an unwritten mutual understanding that a favor will be owed and repaid in the future.

Human emotions are usually defined as a major contributor to the mode of behavior portrayed by individuals within the social setting. Human emotions dictate an individuals personal feelings that develop the attitude towards every aspect and practice of the society. Research has stated that a person is highly attached to individuals who are close or closely related. In his book, Mario Mikulincer defined people as more protective and connected to individuals close to them as relevant to the larger society (Mario Mikulincer, 2010). An individuals attachment to family and loved ones develops the kin selection theory in predicting prosocial behavior. Kin selection is an evolutionary concept that focuses on the individual helping those close to him/her, even at the cost to themselves. The Kin selection theory argues that people desire to help their generations to ensure that their genes live on. A person may opt to help a brother rather than a cousin because he may feel more connected to the brother.

The Kin selection theory emphasizes on human emotions and human attachments as a motivator of prosocial behavior within the society. Human behavior is driven by human emotions and drives that make up the psychological structure of the human self. Based on the kin selection approach scientists argue that an individual is more inclined to assist who shares similar genes than an unrelated person. In the case of two houses burning, a person is likely to help related people for the sake of generation continuity. One would argue that human emotions attach us to people we love and care for. An individual is profoundly attached to other related people especially by blood. Since we love and care for those we are related to, our unconscious psychological structure prompts us to help them whether voluntary or involuntarily. In his book, Buck R. argues that the left hemisphere is responsible for causing an attachment to those closely related to us CITATION RBu02 \p 43 \l 1033 (R, 2002, p. 43).

An economic approach to the behavior of individuals in the society emphasizes on the individuals desire to gain rewards while overlooking costs. This would explain the nature of the prosocial behavior that is manifested in the rational behavior undertaken by humans at the social level. Different models have been established to describe the nature defined by when people help. The example in an emergency, potential helpers analyze the situation and attempt to outweigh the cost and rewards of choices, then come up with a decision that will dictate a probable outcome for them. The motivation towards prosocial behavior can be thereby argued to rely on an individuals self-interest, which is driven by the result. But, why do others help and others do not? The example in the Bible, the parable of a Good Samaritan, gives an account of an individual in need, apparently giving examples the account explains how the individual got help from a foreign person having been ignored by a preacher and even people sharing similar ethnicity.

Research has relied on the personality of the person in dictating whether the individual will help or not, however do some people help more than others? One cannot depend on an individuals personality only to explain the reason behind exhibited prosocial behavior in different situations. A person may act prosaically in a given situation and deviate to act differently when faced with another situation. One would argue that a persons prosocial behavior may not be predicted based on another prosocial situation. To understand the motivating factors behind an individuals approach to helping other in situations, it is important to emphasize on analyzing the individuals adherence of the situational pressure, the gender of the individual, culture, and their current mood. Situational pressure if the resultant nature of the situation that a person may find him or herself in, this would involve the setting of the case whether public or private, demanding or not or the societys perception of such a situation. If the individual is tolerant of the pressure of the situation, he/she may help the other person CITATION Bau08 \p 17 \l 1033 (Baumeister. R. F, 2008, p. 17). The example in the case of an emergency accident, the person will be faced with the situational pressure of getting the victims to a health center quickly; this is likely to probe the individual into helping the others. On the other hand, a case of a ball stuck on the tree may not retain much situational pressure, and rather it may present itself as a situation that does not need immediate attention causing the individual to help or walk away.

Gender disparities are a critical issue regarding motivation towards prosocial behavior; a person is likely to act in a certain way based on the type of situation and sex involved. In the case of a terrorist in the cockpit, an individual of the male sex is likely to charge in an attempt to help the other passengers on the airplane. Significantly, a neighbor who requires help with the house chores is likely to be in need of an individual of the female gender. Research...

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Prosocial Motives, Emotions and Behavior. (2021, May 20). Retrieved from

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