Major Theories of Prosocial Behavior

1. Introductory examples and comments

2. Prosocial behavior vs. altruism

A. Definitions
B. "The debate over the nature of prosocial motivation is a debate over whether benefiting others is an instrumental behavior on the way to some self-interested ultimate goal or an ultimate goal in its own right with the self-benefits being unintended consequences" (Batson, 1995)

3. Major theories of prosocial behavior

A. Social exchange
B. Social norms
C. Empathy-altruism
D. Evolutionary psychology

Theory Level of Explanation Nonreciprocal Helping Behavior Reciprocal Helping Behavior Problem
Social exchange Psychological A. Cost-benefit analysis (bystander calculus)
B. Reducing distress (negative state relief)
C. Positively reinforcing oneself
D. Avoiding guilt (self-punishment)
E. Anticipated positive reinforcement from others
Same processes Circular explanations possible
Empathy-altruism Psychological Empathy arousal   Possible egoistic motive
Social norms Sociological Social responsibility norm Reciprocity norm Rules applied selectively
Evolutionary psychology (sociobiology) Biological Kin selection Reciprocal benefit A. Prosocial genes not identified
B. Mimimizes role of learning and culture.

4. One example of the complexity of the social psychological research on helping: The effect of mood on helping

A. Very positive moods and somewhat negative moods have been found to increase helping.
B. Positive mood

(1) Helping enhances or prolongs an already positive mood.
(2) Positive moods promote thinking about the rewarding nature of social activities in general.

C. Negative mood

(1) Helping is a method to escape a negative mood.
(2) Extremely negative mood cause people to focus so much on themselves that they become inattentive to others.