Psychology Prosocial Behavior
by
Gilad Hirschberger, Uri Lifshin
  • LAST REVIEWED: 02 December 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 19 March 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0104

Introduction

The elaborate nature of human societies requires high levels of cooperation, and our social system benefits from reciprocal benevolence and goodwill. Yet, it is not entirely clear why each individual in this elaborate system is willing to expend his or her time and resources on the well-being of others. Is there a hidden benefit to our prosociality or are we hardwired to be good? What are the forces that operate on our decision to behave prosocially? Do genetic and evolutionary forces determine the extent of prosocial behavior? Is there a prosocial personality, with some people more dispositionally inclined to help than others? Or perhaps prosocial behavior is primarily determined by situational and environmental forces? These questions and others have guided the study of prosocial behavior for more than fifty years. During this period, the psychological interest in prosocial behavior has ebbed and flowed from the glory days of the late 1960s and 1970s through the 1990s and early 2000s, which mark the lowest point in prosocial research, up to the last few years during which prosocial research has experienced a renaissance with new ideas stimulating the revival of the field and the growth in the volume of research. The current article will review the state-of-the-art research on the psychology of prosocial behavior to provide a comprehensive overview of the field for scientists and students alike. This review will highlight the classic studies that constitute the foundations of the field, will illuminate questions and controversies that have come about as the field has progressed, and will discuss new and exciting directions in prosocial research that break new ground and open new paths for the future development of this discipline. But, what exactly is prosocial behavior? Some definitions place more emphasis on consequences and view prosocial behavior as a broad category of actions that are beneficial to other people. Others stress the importance of motivations and intents underlying prosocial behavior.

General Overviews

Prosocial behavior has been studied from many different angles and from the perspective of almost every subdiscipline in psychology. As such, no single chapter or article can justifiably treat this vast field of scholarship. However, several sources provide comprehensive overviews capturing key developments that have made the study of prosocial behavior what it is today. Dovidio, et al. 2006 provides the most comprehensive and detailed text overviewing this field. This book offers an extensive review of the research, and it is interspersed with stories and illustrations that bring the research to life and make this an interesting read for scholars, students, and laypersons alike. Mikulincer and Shaver 2010 is the most up-to-date text on the state-of-the-art of prosocial research and includes many new theories and directions that are absent from other texts (such as genetic and neuroscientific perspectives). The chapters in this volume feature contributions from the leaders in this field as well as from new and upcoming scholars. Stürmer and Snyder 2010 addresses a shortcoming in most reviews of prosocial behavior, and it emphasizes the context of social groups, large organizations, and real-world settings. Other important reviews can be found in chapters from books that do not focus specifically on prosociality. Dunning’s Frontiers of Social Psychology series provides contributing reviews on prosocial motivations (Batson 2011) and on helping and volunteering (Mannino, et al. 2011). Another indispensable source is Batson’s review of prosocial behavior in The Handbook of Social Psychology (4th ed.), which summarizes prosocial theories and research in clear detail (see Batson 1998). Undergraduate students or those who wish to get a clearly written bird’s-eye view of the field will find that Kassin, et al. 2011 provides the reader with a coherent and interesting review that is relatively short and not overwhelming in detail.

  • Batson, C. Daniel. 1998. Altruism and prosocial behavior. In The handbook of social psychology. 2 vols. 4th ed. Edited by Daniel T. Gilbert, Susan T. Fiske, and Gardner Lindzey, 282–316. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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    This classic review is still relevant today because it summarizes the most prominent theoretical approaches, findings, and controversies with much detail. It is a must read for scholars wishing to get an in-depth acquaintance with the field.

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    • Batson, C. Daniel, Nadia Ahmad, and E. L. Stocks. 2011. Four forms of prosocial motivation: Egoism, altruism, collectivism, and principlism. In Social motivation. Edited by David Dunning, 103–126. Frontiers of Social Psychology. New York: Psychology Press.

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      This chapter efficiently summarizes the development of the field of prosocial motivations, which is at the heart of prosocial behavior research, through a useful categorization of theories and findings.

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      • Dovidio, John F., Jane Allyn Piliavin, David A. Schroeder, and Louis Penner. 2006. The social psychology of prosocial behavior. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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        Written by some of the most prominent scholars in the field, this book provides a thorough and comprehensive review of the origin and development of prosocial research and of the current state of the field.

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        • Kassin, Saul, Steven Fein, and Markus Hazel Rose. 2011. Social psychology. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Cengage Wadsworth.

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          This textbook covers all of the basic concepts, and it reviews the classic research on prosocial behavior while addressing interesting findings from nonmainstream research as well. Recommended for undergraduate students and for those who wish to get an introduction to the field.

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          • Mannino, Clelia Anna, Mark Snyder, and Allen M. Omoto. 2011. Why do people get involved? Motivations for volunteerism and other forms of social action. In Social motivation. Edited by David Dunning, 127–146. Frontiers of Social Psychology. New York: Psychology Press.

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            This chapter thoroughly addresses an area of prosocial behavior that is drawing considerable interest in recent years. If past research focused on helping behavior that occurs only once, this chapter places the spotlight on long-term commitments to helping.

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            • Mikulincer, Mario, and Phillip R. Shaver, eds. 2010. Prosocial motives, emotions, and behavior: The better angels of our nature. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

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              This edited volume includes scholarship of researchers examining different aspects of prosocial behavior that is not always addressed in other texts, such as genetic and neuroscientific perspectives, prosocial behavior in close relationships, and prosocial behavior in the context of protracted intergroup conflict. This book is accessible online.

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              • Stürmer, Stefan, and Snyder Mark, eds. 2010. The psychology of prosocial behavior: Group processes, intergroup relations, and helping. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

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                This book addresses prosocial behavior while focusing more on helping and volunteering in the context of social groups and large organizations; provides current perspectives and promising directions for future research. This book is accessible online.

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                Types of Prosocial Behavior and Research Methods

                In our day-to-day lives we provide and receive help on anything from holding the elevator door for someone to volunteering our time for an important social cause. Occasionally, we may even take significant risks to help another person in an emergency situation. McGuire 1994 identifies four types of helping: casual helping, substantial personal helping, emotional helping, and emergency helping. The classification is notable for the attention given to emotional helping—a form of help that is often overlooked. Another classification of prosocial behavior is proposed in Pearce and Amato 1980, which identifies three critical dimensions: (1) planned and formal (e.g., signing up to do volunteer work) versus spontaneous and informal (e.g., helping an elderly person carry grocery bags); (2) serious (e.g., helping a car crash victim) versus nonserious (e.g., helping a tourist with directions); and (3) direct (e.g., giving a homeless person some food) versus indirect (e.g., donating to an organization that helps the homeless). Penner, et al. 2005 offers a multilevel perspective on prosocial behavior according to which prosocial behavior can be analyzed at the microlevel (e.g., evolutionary theory, personality theory), the mesolevel (e.g., the study of helper-recipient dyads in different contexts), and the macrolevel (in the context of groups and large organizations). Controversy exists on whether there are gender differences in prosocial behavior. Becker and Eagly 2004 suggests that when differences are observed, men are more likely to help in emergency situations, whereas women provide more emotional support, are more likely to volunteer, and are more willing to donate organs. These different aspects of prosocial behavior have been studied using a variety of methods and designs. Because self-reports of prosocial intentions are somewhat dubious, creative and ingenious methods have been designed to examine actual prosocial behavior in natural settings and to examine physiological and neurological correlates of prosocial motivation and intent. Much of this research has been conducted in laboratory sessions or in the context of field experiments. Other research is correlational and observational in nature and is conducted in natural settings such as schools and organizations (see Mikulincer and Shaver 2010; Penner, et al. 2005 for comprehensive reviews).

                • Becker, Selwyn W., and Alice H. Eagly. 2004. The heroism of women and men. American Psychologist 59.3: 163–178.

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                  A comprehensive summary of gender differences in prosocial behavior.

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                  • McGuire, Anne M. 1994. Helping behaviors in the natural environment: Dimensions and correlates of helping. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 20.1: 45–56.

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                    Systematically identifies four types of helping: casual helping, substantial personal helping, emotional helping, and emergency helping.

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                    • Mikulincer, Mario, and Phillip R. Shaver, eds. 2010. Prosocial motives, emotions, and behavior: The better angels of our nature. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

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                      A good resource for contemporary methodologies in prosocial research as it is rich in examples of different perspectives on prosocial behavior, each with its original methodology.

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                      • Pearce, Philip L., and Paul R. Amato. 1980. A taxonomy of helping: A multidimensional scaling analysis. Social Psychology Quarterly 43.4: 363–371.

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                        Proposes a classification taxonomy of helping situations according to three dimensions: planned and formal versus spontaneous and informal, serious versus not serious, and direct versus indirect.

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                        • Penner, Louis A., John F. Dovidio, Jane A. Piliavin, and David A. Schroeder. 2005. Prosocial behavior: Multilevel perspectives. Annual Review of Psychology 56.1: 14.1–14.28.

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                          Offers an original multilevel perspective on prosocial behavior that organizes the literature in a novel manner and offers new directions for research.

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                          The Evolutionary Origin of Prosocial Behavior

                          Extensive cooperation with both kin and nonkin is an essential component of human social life, without which humans could not have survived. The first key development in understanding the evolution of prosociality was Hamilton’s introduction (see Hamilton 1996, originally published in 1964) of the concept of inclusive fitness, according to which an individual can increase the probability of his or her genetic success either by passing genes on directly through procreation or by aiding the reproduction of others who carry the same genes. This idea inspired the development of three other evolutionary theories: kin selection theory (Hamilton 1996, originally published in 1964), reciprocal altruism (Trivers 1971), and group selection theory (Sober and Wilson 1998). Research on kin selection theory conducted by Eugene Burnstein and his associates (Burnstein, et al. 1994) indicated that prosocial behavior increases as the degree of genetic relatedness increases, especially in life and death situations. Importantly, these effects cannot be explained by greater psychological closeness. Although kin selection theory explains the adaptive value of helping relatives, it cannot explain the pervasiveness of cooperation among nonrelated individuals. The conceptualization of reciprocal altruism found in Trivers 1971 addresses this limitation, contending that altruism is based on a social contract of cooperation wherein individuals behave prosocially without necessarily reaping an immediate reward but knowing that others will come to their assistance when needed. The group selection theory outlined in Sober and Wilson 1998 takes this idea a step further in claiming that natural selection sometimes operates at the group level. Accordingly, groups that displayed more cooperation and altruism between group members should have outcompeted rival groups. Newer models such as the gene culture co-evolutionary theory in Richerson and Boyd 2005, contend that group level selection did not only happen at the genetic level, but also required the transmission of acquired cultural knowledge, such as the knowledge that cooperation benefits all members over time even if there are temporary costs. For a thorough review, see Beckes and Simpson 2012. Genetic research, reviewed in Knafo and Solomon 2010, corroborates the evolutionary models of prosocial behavior and, on the basis of twin studies, provides evidence for the heritability of empathy and prosocial dispositions.

                          • Beckes, Lane, and Jeffry A. Simpson. 2012. Evolutionary perspectives on caring and prosocial behavior in relationships. In Relationship science: Integrating evolutionary, neuroscience, and sociocultural approaches. Edited by Omri Gillath, Glenn Adams, and Adrianne Kunkel, 27–47. Decade of Behavior 2000–2010. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

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                            This chapter delineates the adaptive nature of prosocial behavior and discusses how contemporary research in social psychology and neuroscience support these evolutionary accounts.

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                            • Burnstein, Eugene, Christian Crandall, and Shinobu Kitayama. 1994. Some neo-Darwinian decision rules for altruism: Weighing cues for inclusive fitness as a function of the biological importance of the decision. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 67.5: 773–789.

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                              Supporting kin selection theory, Japanese and American participants showed a greater willingness to help relatives who were more genetically related to them, especially in situations of life or death.

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                              • Hamilton, William D. 1996. The genetical evolution of social behavior. In Foundations of animal behavior: Classic papers with commentaries. Edited by Lynne D. Houck and Lee C. Drickamer, 764–779. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                Introduces the idea of inclusive fitness, according to which individuals can increase the fitness of their genes either by passing them on directly or by aiding the reproduction of others who carry the same genes. Originally published in 1964.

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                                • Knafo, Ariel, and Salomon Israel. 2010. Genetic and environmental influences on prosocial behavior. In Prosocial motives, emotions, and behavior: The better angels of our nature. Edited by Mario Mikulincer and Shaver, Phillip R., 149–167. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

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                                  Summarizes the state-of-the-art research on genetic and environmental influences on prosocial behavior relying mostly on twin research. Emphasizes the interaction between genetics and developmental and environmental influences.

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                                  • Richerson, Peter J., and Robert Boyd. 2005. Not by genes alone: How culture transformed human evolution. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                    Introduces the most recent evolutionary account for altruism: Gene culture co-evolutionary theory, asserting that group level selection did not only happen at the genetic level, but also required the transmission of acquired cultural knowledge, such as the knowledge that cooperation benefits all members over time even when there are temporary costs.

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                                    • Sober, Elliott, and David Sloan Wilson. 1998. Unto others: The evolution and psychology of unselfish behavior. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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                                      Introduces a third evolutionary account of altruism, group selection theory, according to which groups with altruistic members are more evolutionarily adaptive than groups with selfish members. A summary of this book is also available: Elliott Sober and David Sloan Wilson, “Summary of: ‘Unto others: The evolution and psychology of unselfish behavior,’” Journal of Consciousness Studies 7.1–2 (2000): 185–206.

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                                      • Trivers, Robert L. 1971. The evolution of reciprocal altruism. Quarterly Review of Biology 46.1: 35–57

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                                        Introduces the idea of reciprocal altruism to refer to the genetic tendency for mutual helping among nonrelated individuals. This text provides the basis for our understanding of prosocial behavior in human and animal societies.

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                                        Contextual Factors

                                        In the 1960s, psychological science experienced a paradigmatic shift with a decline in personality explanations for behavior and a discovery of the power of the situation. The study of prosocial behavior, which was gaining momentum around that time, was strongly influenced by this new emphasis and research focused on such variables as the cost of helping, the nature of the situation, the number of bystanders, and time constraints. This era is often referred to as the situationist era. Research on the influence of contextual factors on prosocial behavior continues today, and this section focuses, first, on the classic behavioral studies and, then, examines contemporary perspectives on prosocial behavior.

                                        The Situationist Era

                                        The interest in prosocial behavior peaked in the 1960s and 1970s, much of it due to a single incident—the brutal stabbing and murder of Kitty Genovese, who was attacked and slowly bled to death in front of her home in Queens, New York, while neighbors witnessed the crime and did nothing to prevent it or help the victim. This event stimulated social psychologists Bibb Latané and John Darley (e.g., Darley and Latané 1968, Latané and Darley 1968) to develop a program of research designed to explain the situational factors that promote or inhibit helping. The results from these experiments led to formulation of the bystander effect (Latané and Darley 1970), which posits that the more people who witness an event, the less likely it is that any one of them will help. This work on bystander intervention specifies five conditions that need to be met for helping to occur: (1) identifying that something is wrong, (2) interpreting the event, (3) taking responsibility, (4) deciding how to help, and (5) providing help. Ten years later, Bibb Latané and Steve Nida reviewed these classic experiments, highlighting situational factors, such as the ambiguity of the emergency situation, that influence helping (Latané and Nida 1981). Subsequent research by John Dovidio and his associates suggested that the decision to help also involves a rational cost-reward analysis such that people will help only when the benefits exceed the costs (Dovidio, et al. 1991). In one line of examination, researchers staged emergencies in the Philadelphia subway to examine how different variables that exert a cost (such as blood trickling from the victim’s mouth) would influence people’s tendency to assist a confederate who had collapsed (Piliavin and Piliavin 1972; Piliavin, et al. 1969). Findings indicated that the more costly it was to help, the less people tended to do so. Another dramatic demonstration of cost-benefit considerations is the Good Samaritan study (Darley and Batson 1973). In this research, seminary students were asked to deliver a presentation in another building. Half of the students were asked to talk about the Good Samaritan parable and the other half were to talk about a neutral topic. Participants were either told that they were late for their presentation, right on time, or early. On the way to the other building they passed a groaning man slumped on the floor. Ironically, time constraints, and not the salience of the Good Samaritan parable, influenced helping.

                                        • Darley, John M., and Batson, C. Daniel. 1973. From Jerusalem to Jericho: A study of situational and dispositional variables in helping behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 27:100–108.

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                                          A pillar of the situationist tradition that demonstrates the power of contextual influences on prosocial behavior. In this research seminary students helped a person in need only if they were not under time pressure. Those under pressure tended not to help, regardless of personality and regardless of the fact that they were in a hurry to give a presentation on the Good Samaritan parable.

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                                          • Darley, John M., and Bibb Latané. 1968. Bystander intervention in emergencies: Diffusion of responsibility. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 8.4: 377–383.

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                                            This classic study of an emergency situation was staged during a lab session in which participants, either alone or with one or more confederates, overheard another confederate suffer an epileptic seizure. The more bystanders present, the less likely and the slower the participants were to provide help. (For illustrations see the video on the Bystander Effect and the CNN video “Tape Shows Woman Dying on Waiting Room Floor.”)

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                                            • Dovidio, John F., Jane A. Piliavin, Samuel L. Gaertner, David A. Schroeder, and Russell D. Clark III. 1991. The arousal: Cost-reward model and the process of intervention: A review of the evidence. In Prosocial behavior: Review of personality and social psychology. Vol. 12. Edited by Margaret S. Clark, 86–118. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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                                              The authors propose a model that focuses on the level of arousal experienced when encountering a person in need and the cost-reward calculus bystanders conduct to determine whether or not they will offer assistance.

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                                              • Latané, Bibb, and John M. Darley. 1968. Group inhibition of bystander intervention. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 10:215–221.

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                                                Participants, either alone or with others, were placed in an experiment room when the room suddenly started to fill with smoke. When participants were alone they were more likely to report the smoke. When they were with others who did not react to the smoke, they were more likely to ignore the ambiguous situation.

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                                                • Latané, Bibb, and John M. Darley. 1970. The unresponsive bystander: Why doesn’t he help? New York: Appleton-Century-Croft.

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                                                  In this classic book the pioneers of bystander intervention research summarize a series of ingenious experiments that provide insight into the question of why people do and do not help. The authors offer a five-step decision model to explain factors leading to bystander intervention.

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                                                  • Latané, Bibb, and Steve Nida. 1981. Ten years of research on group size and helping. Psychological Bulletin 89.2: 308–324.

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                                                    Ten years after the classic experiments took place, the authors summarize both published and unpublished research concerning the influence of situational factors, such as ambiguity of the emergency and the number of bystanders.

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                                                    • Piliavin, Jane A., and Irving M. Piliavin. 1972. Effect of blood on reactions to a victim. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 23:353–361.

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                                                      Replicated the results of Piliavin, et al. 1969 and further demonstrated that the more costly it was for people to assist the confederate who collapsed on the floor (e.g., when he was covered in blood), the less people tended to help. This study provides the basis for cost-reward models of prosocial behavior.

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                                                      • Piliavin, Irving M., Judith Rodin, and Jane A. Piliavin. 1969. Good Samaritanism: An underground phenomenon? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 13.4: 289–299.

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                                                        Researchers staged “emergencies” in the subway to examine how variables, such as the number of bystanders, attributions of the victims’ behavior, or the victim’s race, influence people’s tendency to provide emergency assistance.

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                                                        Contemporary Research on Contextual Influences

                                                        The interest in contextual factors continues today although the focus has shifted from emergency helping situations to more trivial forms of everyday helping. For example, research reveals that place of residence can influence the degree of help people are willing to provide. A meta-analytic study conducted by Nancy Steblay reveals that people in rural communities are more helpful than urban dwellers (Steblay 1987). Place of residence, however, does not influence prosocial behavior among people who are emotionally or genetically close. Personal wealth has a counterintuitive relationship with prosocial behavior. Although wealthy individuals have more resources at their disposal and are in a better position to help others, research by Paul Piff and his associates indicates that people from low socioeconomic status (SES) display more prosocial behavior than those from high SES background because they feel more compassion toward others who suffer and are more committed to egalitarian values (Piff, et al, 2010). In the same vein, people in a position of power may use prosocial behavior as a means of maintaining power relations and keeping the subordinate group in a needy position (see Nadler 2010 for a review). Among people high in power, however, greater congruence exists between empathic accuracy and prosocial orientation, an association that is inconsistently found in the general population, as seen in Côté, et al. 2011. Interpersonal factors are also important determinants of prosocial behavior, and research results in van Baaren, et al. 2004 indicate that mimicry during social interaction increases prosocial behavior. Based on the same logic, Twenge, et al. 2007 shows that social exclusion is an extremely aversive experience that significantly reduces the propensity of individuals to provide even trivial help to others.

                                                        • Côté, Stéphane, Michael W. Kraus, Bonnie Hayden Cheng, et al. 2011. Social power facilitates the effect of prosocial orientation on empathic accuracy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 101.2: 217–232.

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                                                          Across three studies using physiological, behavioral, and self-report methods, empathic accuracy was significantly associated with prosocial behavior only among individuals holding high power.

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                                                          • Nadler, Arie. 2010. Interpersonal and intergroup helping relations as power relations: Implications for real-world helping. In The psychology of prosocial behavior: Group processes, intergroup relations, and helping. Edited by Stefan Stürmer and Mark Snyder, 269–287. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

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                                                            In this chapter, Nadler focuses on prosocial behavior at the group level and suggests that, when members of a dominant group help minority group members, they may be doing so to establish the power differential between the groups and to reinforce the status quo.

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                                                            • Piff, Paul K., Michael W. Kraus, Stéphane Côté, Bonnie Hayden Cheng, and Dacher Keltner. 2010. Having less, giving more: The influence of social class on prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 99.5: 771–784.

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                                                              Four studies indicated that, compared to people with high socioeconomic status (SES), people with low SES were more generous, charitable, trusting, and helpful because they were more compassionate and more committed to egalitarian values.

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                                                              • Steblay, Nancy M. 1987. Helping behavior in rural and urban environments: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin 102:346–356.

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                                                                A meta-analysis examined the hypothesis that country people are more helpful than city people. The analysis confirms the hypothesis, but it indicates that the difference is due not to personality factors but to situational factors. Thus, it is more accurate to say that rural environments promote more helping than urban environments.

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                                                                • Twenge, Jean M., Roy F. Baumeister, C. Nathan DeWall, Natalie J. Ciarocco, and Bartels J. Michael. 2007. Social exclusion decreases prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 92.1: 56–66.

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                                                                  Seven studies demonstrate that manipulating social exclusion significantly reduces prosocial behavior on a variety of tasks. Rejection seems to inhibit prosocial behavior by reducing empathy toward the other.

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                                                                  • van Baaren, Rick B., Rob W. Holland, Kerry Kawakami, and Ad van Knippenberg. 2004. Mimicry and prosocial behavior. Psychological Science 15.1: 71–74.

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                                                                    Participants who had been mimicked were more helpful and generous even to strangers unrelated to the mimicry task. These results suggest that the effects of mimicry are not due to increased liking of the mimicker but to an increase in prosocial orientation.

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                                                                    Prosocial Dispositions

                                                                    In the 1980s, psychologists returned to question the indisputable dominance of situational explanations of prosocial behavior, and theories of prosocial dispositions were revived. Oliner and Oliner 1988 shows that many years later people who saved Jews in Nazi Europe were: (1) more empathic for those in need, (2) sensitive to normative pressures from social groups, and (3) held universal moral principles such as justice and care. Research following young adults over five years supports the contention that prosocial dispositions remain stable over time and shows that they were reliably associated with measures of empathy and prosocial responding taken at younger ages (Eisenberg, et al. 2002). Agreeableness (one of the big five personality dimensions) has been singled out as an important predictor of prosocial behavior that interacts with contextual factors such as group membership (Graziano, et al. 2007) and that also predicts prosocial behavior over time (Caprara, et al. 2011). Accordingly, Penner, et al. 2005 (cited under Types of Prosocial Behavior and Research Methods) attempts to define what a prosocial personality is. A factor analysis of traits revealed two dimensions that make up the prosocial personality: focusing on the welfare of others and competence to provide help. Thus, a prosocial person is one who is not only compassionate and caring, but also has a sense of efficacy to provide help (see Penner and Orom 2010 for a review). Another prominent dispositional account of prosocial behavior is Bowlby’s attachment theory. Research on adult attachment reveals that attachment security (the feelings that others love you and care for you) is associated with empathy, caregiving, and prosocial behavior, whereas individuals high on attachment avoidance (characterized by fear of closeness) or attachment anxiety (fear of abandonment) have difficulties in providing effective care (see Shaver and Mikulincer 2012 for a review). Specifically, attachment avoidance is related to low levels of empathy, compassion, gratitude, forgiveness, and prosocial behavior. In contrast, attachment anxiety is usually not significantly associated with prosocial behavior, and it is characterized by personal distress when witnessing the suffering of another person (see Shaver and Mikulincer 2012). In recent research conducted by Mario Mikulincer and his associates, attachment security was contextually manipulated and not just measured (Mikulincer, et al. 2005). These studies indicate that security primes increase feelings of compassion toward suffering others and increase levels of help to a person in distress, even among chronically insecure individuals.

                                                                    • Caprara, Gian, Guido Vittorio Alessandri, and Nancy Eisenberg. 2011. Prosociality: The contribution of traits, values, and self-efficacy beliefs. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 102.6: 1289–1303.

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                                                                      This study examined longitudinally how agreeableness, self-transcendence values, and empathic self-efficacy beliefs predict prosociality across time.

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                                                                      • Eisenberg, Nancy, Ivanna K. Guthrie, Amanda Cumberland, et al. 2002. Prosocial development in early adulthood: A longitudinal study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 82.6: 993–1006.

                                                                        DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.82.6.993Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                        This longitudinal study examined prosocial dispositions and prosocial moral judgments over time and found that prosocial dispositions remained stable and were reliably associated with measures of empathy and prosocial responding measured at an earlier age.

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                                                                        • Graziano, William G., Meara M. Habashi, Brad E. Sheese, and Renée M. Tobin. 2007. Agreeableness, empathy, and helping: A person × situation perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 93.4: 583–599.

                                                                          DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.93.4.583Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                          Found significant interactions between dispositional measures of prosociality and helping behavior across a range of situations and victims.

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                                                                          • Mikulincer, Mario, Phillip R. Shaver, Omri Gillath, and Rachel A. Nitzberg. 2005. Attachment, caregiving, and altruism: Boosting attachment security increases compassion and helping. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 89.5: 817–839.

                                                                            DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.89.5.817Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                            A series of studies conducted both in the United States and in Israel indicated that priming attachment security led participants to help a person in distress in a seemingly altruistic matter that cannot be explained through mood-enhancement or empathic joy.

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                                                                            • Oliner, Samuel P., and Pearl M. Oliner. 1988. The altruistic personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe. New York: Free Press.

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                                                                              The authors examined the motivations of people who helped Jews during World War II through the use of questionnaires and interviews, and they concluded that dispositions such as the proclivity to feel empathy for those in need, sensitivity to pressure from social groups, and adherence to universal moral principles predict altruistic behavior.

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                                                                              • Penner, Louis A., and Heather Orom. 2010. Enduring goodness: A person-by-situation perspective on prosocial behavior. In Prosocial motives, emotions, and behavior: The better angels of our nature. Edited by Mario Mikulincer and Phillip R. Shaver, 55–72. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

                                                                                DOI: 10.1037/12061-000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                This chapter advances an interactionist perspective on prosocial behavior according to which both dispositional and situational factors play an important role in predicting prosocial responses.

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                                                                                • Shaver, Phillip R., and Mario Mikulincer. 2012. An attachment perspective on morality: Strengthening authentic forms of moral decision making. In The social psychology of morality: Exploring the causes of good and evil. Edited by Mario Mikulincer and Phillip R. Shaver, 257–274. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

                                                                                  DOI: 10.1037/13091-014Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                  This chapter reviews the substantial body of research on attachment orientations, caregiving, and prosocial and moral responses.

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                                                                                  Prosocial Emotions

                                                                                  The possible emotional reactions to the suffering or distress of another person are numerous. One may feel upset, anxious, or afraid and these feelings may be oriented toward the self or toward the suffering other. Other reactions may include feelings of compassion, sympathy, or love that usually indicate concern for the welfare of the other. In this section, the research on empathy and sympathy is reviewed, and then the focus turns to several other positive and negative emotions that have been shown to relate to prosocial behavior.

                                                                                  Empathy and Sympathy

                                                                                  Martin Hoffman, a pioneer in empathy research, maintained that understanding other people’s affective states and responding to them is fundamental to interpersonal processes (Hoffman 2008). Eisenberg 2002, authored by another leading scholar in this field, defines empathy as an affective response that stems from the perception of another person’s emotional state and is similar to what the other person is feeling. A related emotional response is sympathy (or empathic concern, compassion). Although empathy and sympathy are often conflated, sympathy is thought to be a distinct emotional reaction that does not have to be congruent with the affective state of the other and involves “feelings of sorrow or concern for another” (Eisenberg, et al. 2010, p. 115). Eisenberg, et al. 2010 indicates that the ability to feel empathy and sympathy is related to the willingness to engage in prosocial activity among children, and Batson, et al. 1981 shows similar processes among adults. Hoffman 2008 views sympathy as related specifically to the development of higher levels of moral reasoning. A related line of research focuses on the concept of empathic accuracy—the ability to accurately detect other people’s emotions—showing that empathic accuracy may promote prosocial responses in close relationships. For example, Kilpatrick, et al. 2002 indicates that empathic accuracy among married couples is associated with accommodative behaviors. Recent neuropsychological research reviewed in de Vignemont and Singer 2006 and in the section on Prosocial Brain is breaking new ground in understanding responses to suffering others.

                                                                                  • Batson, C. Daniel, Bruce D. Duncan, Paula Ackerman, Terese Buckley, and Kimberly Birch. 1981. Is empathic emotion a source of altruistic motivation? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 40.2: 290–302.

                                                                                    DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.40.2.290Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    Introduces and tests the empathy-altruism hypothesis in an experiment in which participants witnessed a confederate receive a painful electric shock and could either replace the victim or escape the situation.

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                                                                                    • de Vignemont, Frédérique, and Tania Singer. 2006. The empathic brain: How, when and why? Trends in Cognitive Sciences 10.10: 435–441.

                                                                                      DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2006.08.008Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      This review presents state-of-the-art neuropsychological research on empathy and delineates the neural mechanisms underlying empathy and prosocial behavior in humans.

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                                                                                      • Eisenberg, Nancy. 2002. Empathy-related emotional responses, altruism, and their socialization. In Visions of compassion: Western scientists and Tibetan Buddhists examine human nature. Edited by Richard J. Davidson and Anne Harrington, 131–164. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

                                                                                        DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195130430.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                        Discusses the relation between empathy-related responding and prosocial behavior and reviews the correlates of empathy/sympathy and prosocial behaviors.

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                                                                                        • Eisenberg, Nancy, Eggum, Natalie D., and Edwards, Alison. 2010. Empathy-related responding and moral development. In Emotions, aggression, and morality in children: Bridging development and psychopathology. Edited by William F. Arsenio and Elizabeth A. Lemerise, 115–135. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

                                                                                          DOI: 10.1037/12129-006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                          Reviews the literature on empathy and moral development in children and addresses both normal development and psychopathologies.

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                                                                                          • Hoffman, Martin L. 2008. Empathy and prosocial behavior. In Handbook of emotions. 3d ed. Edited by Michael Lewis, Haviland-Jones, Jeannette M., and Lisa Feldman, Barrett, 440–455. New York: Guilford.

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                                                                                            This chapter reviews the literature on empathy and prosocial behavior and focuses on the development of empathy, how empathy is aroused, and the biological basis of empathic responding.

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                                                                                            • Kilpatrick, Shelley D., Victor L. Bissonnette, and Caryl E. Rusbult. 2002. Empathic accuracy and accommodative behavior among newly married couples. Personal Relationships 9.4: 369–393.

                                                                                              DOI: 10.1111/1475-6811.09402Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                              This research shows that accurate understanding during the early years of marriage is associated with accommodative behaviors and couple well-being.

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                                                                                              Positive and Negative Emotions

                                                                                              Both positive and negative emotions have been related to prosocial motivations and behaviors. Witnessing someone in distress may cause vicarious distress. Piliavin, et al. 1981 maintains that prosocial behavior may be motivated, in such cases, by the need to escape personal distress. Cialdini, et al. 1973 proposes the “negative state relief model” and demonstrates that people often behave prosocially to relieve their negative states. If other means, however, are available to relieve feelings of distress (such as receiving praise or an award), prosocial behavior decreases. When people feel that their behavior is inconsistent with their personal standards they experience guilt. Feeling guilty increases prosocial tendencies not only toward the victims, but also toward unrelated others— see Tangney, et al. 2007 for a review. Cialdini, et al. 1981 shows that people may also feel sadness when witnessing the suffering of others, and sadness increases the motivation to help because of the desire to restore a sense of justice and relieve negative affect. Feinberg, et al. 2012 finds that when people display embarrassment they signal to others that they recognize their misconduct and this increases people’s perception of them as prosocial. Salovey, et al. 1991 contends that maintaining or increasing positive moods is also associated with prosocial behavior. Classic behavioral research, such as that in Isen and Levin 1972, indicates that trivial mood-boosters, such as getting a cookie while studying at the library or finding a coin in a telephone booth, increased various forms of helping. It seems that these people were motivated to maintain their good mood by not letting other people’s trouble affect it and by making people more attentive to the needs of others (Isen and Levin 1972; Salovey, et al. 1991). Contemporary research, such as Whitaker and Bushman 2012, indicates that inducing a relaxed state increases the tendency to behave prosocially.

                                                                                              • Cialdini, Robert B., Donald J. Baumann, and Douglas T. Kenrick. 1981. Insights from sadness: A three-step model of the development of altruism as hedonism. Developmental Review 1.3: 207–223.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.1016/0273-2297(81)90018-6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                This article reviews findings indicating that sadness increases the motivation to help others.

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                                                                                                • Cialdini, Robert B., Betty L. Darby, and Joyce E. Vincent. 1973. Transgression and altruism: A case for hedonism. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 9.6: 502–516.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1016/0022-1031(73)90031-0Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  In support of their negative state relief model, the authors showed how feeling bad increases people’s willingness to volunteer, but when people have their negative state relieved by receiving praise or reward before getting a chance to volunteer, their motivation for prosocial behavior plummets.

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                                                                                                  • Feinberg, Matthew, Robb Willer, and Dacher Keltner. 2012. Flustered and faithful: Embarrassment as a signal of prosociality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 102.1: 81–97.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1037/a0025403Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    This research indicates that individuals who show more signs of embarrassment behave more prosocially and are perceived by others as prosocial.

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                                                                                                    • Isen, Alice M., and Paula F. Levin. 1972. Effect of feeling good on helping: Cookies and kindness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 21.3: 384–388.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1037/h0032317Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      In this classic research, the authors elevated people’s mood in various ways and this boost in positive affect increased prosocial behavior.

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                                                                                                      • Piliavin, Jane Allyn, John F. Dovidio, Samuel Gaertner, and Russell D. Clark III. 1981. Emergency intervention. New York: Academic Press.

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                                                                                                        The authors propose the arousal: cost-reward model for providing help and review the classic research, concluding that situational factors are more powerful predictors of emergency helping than dispositional ones.

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                                                                                                        • Salovey, Peter, John D. Mayer, and David L. Rosenhan. 1991. Mood and helping: Mood as a motivator of helping and helping as a regulator of mood. In Prosocial behavior: Review of personality and social psychology. Vol. 12. Edited by Margaret S. Clark, 215–237. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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                                                                                                          Provides a review of research on mood and helping, indicating that mood motivates helping and helping regulates mood.

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                                                                                                          • Tangney, June Price, Jeff Stuewig, and Debra J. Mashek. 2007. Moral emotions and moral behavior. Annual Review of Psychology 58.1: 345–372.

                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.56.091103.070145Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            This article reviews theory and research on moral emotions (shame, guilt, embarrassment, gratitude, pride, and empathy) and how they relate to moral behavior.

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                                                                                                            • Whitaker, Jodi L., and Brad J. Bushman. 2012. Remain calm: Be kind: Effects of relaxing video games on aggressive and prosocial behavior. Social Psychological and Personality Science 3.1: 88–92.

                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1177/1948550611409760Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              This research shows that compared to playing violent or neutral video games, those who played relaxing video games were in a better mood and behaved prosocially.

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                                                                                                              Prosocial Motivations

                                                                                                              The motivations underlying prosocial behavior have generated a great deal of interest and have spurred many debates. Do people help because they genuinely care for others or are they primarily guided by self-interest and egotism? Research has examined whether relieving the other person’s needs is an ultimate goal of prosocial behavior (with self-benefits in this case being an unintended consequence), an instrumental goal (as means to obtain a benefit for oneself), or both. Most models of prosocial behavior assume that some form of egotism is driving other-oriented responses. Social learning theory, for instance, explains how prosocial behaviors are products of conditioned and modeled associations between prosocial behavior, gaining rewards, and avoiding punishments. The arousal: cost-reward model posits that the probability of helping increases when the benefits of helping outweigh the costs (for a review see Dovidio, et al. 2006, cited under General Overviews). This theory suggests that people engage in either deliberate or unconscious cost-benefit calculations that ultimately determine whether or not they will help. Similarly, terror management theory suggests that prosocial behavior may help people regulate existential concerns (Jonas, et al. 2002, cited under Terror Management Theory), unless the prosocial cause itself amplifies these concerns (Hirschberger, et al. 2008, cited under Terror Management Theory). In sharp contrast, Daniel Batson and his colleagues (e.g., Batson, et al 1981, cited under Altruism or Egotism?; see Batson 2010 cited under Altruism or Egotism? for a review) have accumulated over three decades of research to argue that some people under certain circumstances are truly altruistic.

                                                                                                              Learning Theories

                                                                                                              Evidence is considerable that rewarding prosocial behaviors in both children and adults leads to more prosocial behaviors (for a review see Batson 1998). For example, in a field experiment conducted by Martin Moss and Richard Page (Moss and Page 1972), a confederate approached people on a busy street and asked for directions. After getting a response, the confederate either kindly thanked them (reward) or made a rude comment (punishment). Then, another confederate “accidently” dropped an item in front of the unsuspecting participant, providing another opportunity to act prosocially. Results indicated that positive reinforcement led to higher rates of help (93 percent), compared to punishments (40 percent). Another form of learning is through the observation of models. Social learning research shows a relationship between parents’ modeling of prosocial behavior and their children’s helping behavior, as documented in Mussen and Eisenberg 1977. Contemporary research by Marie-Louise Mares and Emory Woodard (Mares and Woodard 2005) and Tobias Greitemeyer and Silvia Osswald (Greitemeyer and Osswald 2010) shows that prosocial models on television and prosocial video games also increase prosocial behaviors. Learning theories of prosocial behavior lack perhaps the complex analysis of the actor’s “true” motivation, but they provide a simple, straightforward explanation of why people behave prosocially.

                                                                                                              • Batson, C. Daniel. 1998. Altruism and prosocial behavior. In The handbook of social psychology. 2 vols. 4th ed. Edited by Daniel T. Gilbert, Susan T. Fiske, and Gardner Lindzey, 282–316. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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                                                                                                                This review is recommended for scholars who wish to get a thorough and well-organized summary of classic prosocial theories and research.

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                                                                                                                • Greitemeyer, Tobias, and Silvia Osswald. 2010. Effects of prosocial video games on prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 98.2: 211–221.

                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1037/a0016997Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  Four creative experiments demonstrated that playing prosocial video games led participants to behave more prosocially. This effect was mediated by the accessibility of prosocial thoughts.

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                                                                                                                  • Mares, Marie-Louise, and Emory Woodard. 2005. Positive effects of television on children’s social interactions: A meta-analysis. Media Psychology 7:301–322.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1207/S1532785XMEP0703_4Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    A meta-analysis that investigated the effects of television on children’s social interactions, aggression, altruism, and stereotyping. Across all the dependent measures, there were consistent effects for those who watched prosocial content compared to neutral or antisocial control groups.

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                                                                                                                    • Moss, Martin K., and Richard A. Page. 1972. Reinforcement and helping behavior. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 2.4: 360–371.

                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.1972.tb01287.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                      Evidence for a behavioral model of helping in which rewards promote helping and punishments inhibit a prosocial response.

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                                                                                                                      • Mussen, Paul, and Nancy Eisenberg. 1977. Roots of caring, sharing, and helping: The development of pro-social behavior in children. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman.

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                                                                                                                        Emphasizes the role of parent modeling in the development of empathy and prosocial behavior.

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                                                                                                                        Altruism or Egotism?

                                                                                                                        One of the central questions in the study of prosocial behavior is whether the motivation to help is altruistic—guided by the desire to help the other—or egotistic—guided by the motivation to help oneself. Many social psychologists believe that ultimately all prosocial behavior is egotistical at the core. Some researchers, however, contend that, although helping is often beneficial to the helper, people are also capable of selfless altruism guided by a genuine desire to help the other. Daniel Batson, one of the prominent scholars of prosocial behavior, formulated the empathy-altruism hypothesis, which posits that when the suffering or need of the other leads the perceiver to experience genuine empathy, the motivation will be to reduce the other’s suffering and not one’s own distress, and thus the prosocial response will be altruistically motivated—see Batson 2010 for a review. Because both egotistic and altruistic motivations can lead to the same prosocial response, it is often difficult to determine the motivation driving this response. Batson 2010 suggests that people who are motivated by altruism will help another person even if there is an easy way out of helping, whereas egotists will seize the opportunity to turn away from helping when possible. In one paradigm that tests this hypothesis, participants were assigned to either an empathy condition or a control condition and witnessed a confederate get painful electric shocks. They were asked whether they would like to replace the confederate in two different conditions: one that offered an easy escape from this unpleasant prosocial act and one that did not. In keeping with the empathy-altruism hypothesis, Batson, et al. 1981 found that participants in the empathy condition offered more assistance regardless of ease of escape whereas participants in the control condition were more likely to leave the experiment when they could. Several alternative explanations have been offered to the empathy-altruism hypothesis—see Batson, et al. 1991 for an examination of alternative explanations. For instance, Maner, et al. 2002 suggests that when negative affect is removed, empathy no longer leads to altruism, implying that the egotistic motivation of reducing negative affect is driving the prosocial behavior. Other works, such as Cialdini, et al. 1997, suggest that when empathy leads to altruism, it is only toward others toward whom one feels a sense of oneness—a feeling that they are included in their self-concept, and then what appears to be altruism is in fact egotism. Batson and his contenders continue to debate these issues and this exchange is well presented in Batson, et al. 2007.

                                                                                                                        • Batson, C. Daniel. 2010. Empathy-induced altruistic motivation. In Prosocial motives, emotions, and behavior: The better angels of our nature. Edited by Mario Mikulincer and Phillip R. Shaver, 15–34. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1037/12061-000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          Summarizes more than thirty years of research on the altruism-egotism debate and addresses possible explanations that have been offered as an alternative to altruism.

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                                                                                                                          • Batson, C. Daniel, Judy G. Batson, Jacqueline K. Slingsby, Kevin L. Harrell, Heli M. Peekna, and R. Matthew Todd. 1991. Empathic joy and the empathy-altruism hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 61.3: 413–426.

                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.61.3.413Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            Emphatic joy is a vicarious feeling of pleasure one has at seeing a person in need experience relief, and thus it is an egotistic motive. This research suggests that empathic joy does not explain the empathy-altruism hypothesis.

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                                                                                                                            • Batson, C. Daniel, Bruce D. Duncan, Paula Ackerman, Terese Buckley, and Kimberly Birch. 1981. Is empathic emotion a source of altruistic motivation? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 40.2: 290–302.

                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.40.2.290Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                              Introduces and tests the empathy-altruism hypothesis in indicating that altruism leads to prosocial behavior even when it is easy to escape the situation.

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                                                                                                                              • Batson, C. Daniel, Bruce D. Duncan, Paula Ackerman, et al. 2007. Does true altruism exist? In Taking sides: Clashing views in social psychology. 2d ed. Edited by Jason A. Nier, 348–371. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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                                                                                                                                Addresses the controversy on altruism in a debate-style format wherein different perspectives are addressed by the authors. Features an annotated listing of websites.

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                                                                                                                                • Cialdini, Robert B., Stephanie L. Brown, Brian P. Lewis, Carol Luce, and Steven L. Neuberg. 1997. Reinterpreting the empathy–altruism relationship: When one into one equals oneness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 73.3: 481–494.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.73.3.481Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  One of the important challenges to the empathy-altruism hypothesis. Shows in three experiments that empathy leads to altruism only through its relation to perceived oneness.

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                                                                                                                                  • Maner, Jon K., Carol L. Luce, Steven L. Neuberg, Robert B. Cialdini, Stephanie Brown, and Brad J. Sagarin. 2002. The effects of perspective taking on motivations for helping: Still no evidence for altruism. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 28.11: 1601–1610.

                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1177/014616702237586Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                    Shows that the empathy-helping relationship disappears when the nonaltruistic motivators of oneness (merged identity with the victim) and negative affect are taken into account.

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                                                                                                                                    Cooperation

                                                                                                                                    Cooperation is when people work together toward a common goal that will be beneficial to all concerned. The motivation for cooperation is not straightforward as it requires individuals to relinquish individual gains for a greater common good. Argyle 1991 identifies three ways individuals may cooperate with each other: cooperation for material rewards, communal relationships, and coordination of social interaction and communication. Computer simulations conducted by Robert Axelrod and William Hamilton show that cooperative strategies such as tit-for-tat develop quickly and remain relatively stable, indicating that cooperation is evolutionarily adaptive (Axelrod and Hamilton 1981). For cooperation to work, however, defectors must be severely punished. Ultimatum game studies, such as Fehr and Gächter 2002, indicate that cooperative systems tend to fail unless a majority of group members vigilantly monitor and sanction norm violators. Cooperation, however, is based not just on sanctions, but also on trust between actors—see the meta-analytic review of trust games in Johnson and Mislin 2011.

                                                                                                                                    • Argyle, Michael. 1991. Cooperation: The basis of sociability. New York: Routledge.

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                                                                                                                                      Discusses types of cooperation, individual differences in cooperativeness, and failure of cooperation between groups. The most comprehensive book on this topic.

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                                                                                                                                      • Axelrod, Robert, and William D. Hamilton. 1981. The evolution of cooperation. Science 211.4489: 1390–1396.

                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1126/science.7466396Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        The researcher conducted a computer tournament and showed that cooperation based on reciprocity is an adaptive strategy that can outcompete other strategies and is stable over time.

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                                                                                                                                        • Fehr, Ernst, and Simon Gächter. 2002. Altruistic punishment in humans. Nature 415.6868: 137–140.

                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1038/415137aSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          Shows that altruistic punishment increases cooperation between humans who are not genetically related.

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                                                                                                                                          • Johnson, Noel D., and Alexandra A. Mislin. 2011. Trust games: A meta-analysis. Journal of Economic Psychology 32:865–889.

                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1016/j.joep.2011.05.007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                            This meta-analytic review examines research on economic trust games to determine the conditions that foster trust and also to test cultural and demographic aspects of perceived trustworthiness.

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                                                                                                                                            Norms and Values

                                                                                                                                            People will often act prosocially because they want to satisfy other people’s expectations. According to Gouldner 1960, the norm of reciprocity refers to the belief that people should help others who have come to their assistance and not help others who have been unhelpful to them. Similarly, Walster, et al. 1973 argues that the norm of equity is based on the principle that people should contribute to a relationship as much as they benefit from it. Another theory based on the principle of fairness is Melvin Lerner’s just-world theory, which suggests that people are motivated to believe that good things happen to good people and bad things to bad people (Lerner 1980). Thus, acting in a prosocial manner (i.e., being a good person) makes people feel that they are deserving of good fortune. The downside of this process is that if people get what they deserve, it implies that unfortunate others have earned their suffering. Research indicates that belief in a just world is associated with more prosocial behavior in some situations (for an extensive review, see Hafer and Bègue 2005), but with a decreased willingness to help disadvantaged groups to the extent that the motivation to attribute blame to innocent victims is increased (Hirschberger 2006). Another norm, advanced in Berkowitz 1972 is the social responsibility norm, according to which when attention is focused on the norm or standard of helping, people will be motivated to help, primarily if the person seeking help has acted carefully and responsibly. Personal values, according to Schwartz 2010, are stable, internalized norms that predict prosocial motivation and behavior in conjunction with contextual influences, such as people’s sense of personal responsibility in a given context. Religion constitutes a set of values, norms, and beliefs that are linked with greater prosociality. Norenzayan and Shariff 2008 finds that, when religious values are experimentally activated, levels of prosocial behavior increase.

                                                                                                                                            • Berkowitz, Leonard. 1972. Social norms, feelings, and other factors affecting helping and altruism. In Advances in experimental social psychology. Vol. 6. Edited by Leonard Berkowitz, 63–106. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

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                                                                                                                                              In this chapter, Berkowitz reviews research on the effects of social norms, such as reciprocity and responsibility, on helping behavior. An emphasis is placed on attributions of responsibility to the victim.

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                                                                                                                                              • Gouldner, Alvin W. 1960. The norm of reciprocity: A preliminary statement. American Sociological Review 25:161–178.

                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.2307/2092623Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                An early paper on the universal norm of reciprocity, according to which people help without receiving immediate rewards because they expect their efforts to be reciprocated in future interactions.

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                                                                                                                                                • Hafer, Carolyn L., and Laurent Bègue. 2005. Experimental research on just-world theory: Problems, developments, and future challenges. Psychological Bulletin 131.1: 128–167.

                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1037/0033-2909.131.1.128Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  Provides an extensive review of twenty-five years of research on Melvin Lerner’s just-world hypothesis (Lerner 1980).

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                                                                                                                                                  • Hirschberger, Gilad. 2006. Terror management and attributions of blame to innocent victims: Reconciling compassionate and defensive responses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 91.5: 832–844.

                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.91.5.832Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                    Shows that, under certain conditions, perceivers are motivated to blame innocent victims with irreversible injuries because these victims threaten just-world beliefs.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Lerner, Melvin J. 1980. The belief in a just world: A fundamental delusion. Edited by Melvin J. Lerner and Sally C.. New York: Plenum.

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                                                                                                                                                      Presents a fundamental social-psychological theory, the just-world hypothesis, according to which people are motivated to believe that good things happen to good people and bad things to bad people.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Norenzayan, Ara, and Azim F. Shariff. 2008. The origin and evolution of religious prosociality. Science 322:58–62.

                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1126/science.1158757Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                        Examines the hypothesis that religions facilitate costly behaviors that benefit other people and shows this effect in correlational, experimental, and cross-cultural research.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Schwartz, Shalom H. 2010. Basic values: How they motivate and inhibit prosocial behavior. In Prosocial motives, emotions, and behavior: The better angels of our nature. Edited by Mario Mikulincer and Phillip R., 221–241. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1037/12061-000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                          Reviews more than thirty-five years of research on value systems and their relationship to social behavior with an emphasis on prosocial and moral behavior.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Walster, Elaine, Ellen Berscheid, and G. William Walster. 1973. New directions in equity research. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 25.2: 151–176.

                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1037/h0033967Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                            The authors present an economic model of relationships—equity theory—according to which people keep a tally of their contributions and rewards in a relationship.

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                                                                                                                                                            Terror Management Theory

                                                                                                                                                            According to terror management theory, the need to regulate death awareness is an important human motivation underlying much social behavior. In a typical terror management experiment participants are primed with death, and defensive responses are measured. Hirschberger 2010 reviews research showing that because no concrete solution exists to the problem of death, people cling to cultural worldviews, such as prosocial behavior, to help transcend their physical, mortal nature. Terror management research conducted by Eva Jonas and her associates indicates that mortality salience primes increase prosocial behavior (Jonas, et al. 2002). However, Hirschberger, et al. 2008 finds that this occurs only if the prosocial response helps regulate death awareness and not when it rekindles thoughts of death, such as in the case of organ donations.

                                                                                                                                                            • Hirschberger, Gilad. 2010. Compassionate callousness: A terror management perspective on prosocial behavior. In Prosocial motives, emotions, and behavior: The better angels of our nature. Edited by Mario Mikulincer and Phillip R. Shaver, 201–219. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1037/12061-000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                              Reviews research on terror management and prosocial behavior with an emphasis on the self-protective altruist hypothesis, according to which death primes will inhibit helping when the symbolic costs outweigh the benefits.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Hirschberger, Gilad, Tsachi Ein-Dor, and Shaul Almakias. 2008. The self-protective altruist: Terror management and the ambivalent nature of prosocial behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 34.5: 666–678.

                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1177/0146167207313933Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                Researchers conducted field experiments indicating that implicit reminders of death led to higher rates of money donation and trivial help, but they lowered rates of organ donations and help to a person in a wheelchair.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Jonas, Eva, Jeff Schimel, Jeff Greenberg, and Tom Pyszczynski. 2002. The Scrooge effect: Evidence that mortality salience increases prosocial attitudes and behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 28.10: 1342–1353.

                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1177/014616702236834Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                  Shows that death primes increased helping intentions and actual helping behavior but only to an in-group cause.

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                                                                                                                                                                  The Development of Prosocial Behavior

                                                                                                                                                                  Research on the development of prosociality has focused on empathy-related responding and prosocial behavior in children; see Eisenberg, et al. 2006 for a review. Studies have shown that even when two-year-olds exhibit behaviors that seem to reflect empathy, sympathy, and personal distress, their displays of concern are related to prosocial behavior (Zahn-Waxler, et al. 1992) and that these abilities develop over time (Carlo, et al. 2011). Because young children cannot be studied using self-report measures, much of the research on prosocial behavior in children examines their responses through facial expressions and physiological measures. These experiments indicate that children’s heart rate deceleration and facial expressions in sympathy-inducing and distressful situations predicts prosocial behaviors—see Eisenberg, et al. 2010 for a review. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between distress for others and self-related distress, and this may lead to inconsistencies in the findings. Similarly, relations between self-reported sympathy and helping have not always been found (Eisenberg, et al. 2010). In another line of research, prosociality in children has been associated with a host of beneficial outcomes over time, such as better academic accomplishments, lower rates of depression, and lower rates of social transgressions, as seen in Caprara, et al. 2000.

                                                                                                                                                                  • Caprara, Gian Vittorio, Claudio Barbaranelli, Concetta Pastorelli, Albert Bandura, and Philip G. Zimbardo. 2000. Prosocial foundations of children’s academic achievement. Psychological Science 11.4: 302–306.

                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1111/1467-9280.00260Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                    A longitudinal study that indicates the importance of early prosocial behavior to both social and academic achievement.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Carlo, Gustavo, Maria Vicenta Mestre, Paula Samper, Ana Tur, and Brian E. Armenta. 2011. The longitudinal relations among dimensions of parenting styles, sympathy, prosocial moral reasoning, and prosocial behaviors. International Journal of Behavioral Development 35.2: 116–124.

                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1177/0165025410375921Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                      This longitudinal study found bidirectional effects between self- and peer-reported prosocial behaviors and self- reported parental warmth, sympathy, and prosocial moral reasoning among Spanish boys and girls.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Eisenberg, Nancy, Natalie D. Eggum, and Alison Edwards. 2010. Empathy-related responding and moral development. In Emotions, aggression, and morality in children: Bridging development and psychopathology. Edited by William F. Arsenio and Elizabeth A. Lemerise, 115–135. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1037/12129-006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                        Reviews representative theory and research on the role of empathy-related responding in the context of prosocial behavior, aggression, and moral judgment. The role of guilt in these processes is emphasized.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Eisenberg, Nancy, Richard A. Fabes, and Tracy L. Spinrad. 2006. Prosocial development. In Handbook of child psychology. Vol. 3, Social, emotional, and personality development. 6th ed. Edited by Eisenberg, Nancy, William Damon, and Richard M. Lerner, 646–718. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley.

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                                                                                                                                                                          Published in an authoritative four-volume reference that spans the field of child development. This chapter presents up-to-date findings in prosocial development.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Zahn-Waxler, Carolyn, Marian Radke-Yarrow, Elizabeth Chapman, and Michael Chapman. 1992. Development of concern for others. Developmental Psychology 28:126–136.

                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1037/0012-1649.28.1.126Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                            Researchers studied the development of prosocial behaviors among toddlers and showed that these behaviors increase in frequency and variety over time.

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                                                                                                                                                                            The Prosocial Brain

                                                                                                                                                                            The neuropsychology of prosocial behavior corroborates much of the social psychological research and contributes new insights into the processes that underlie prosocial responses. The discovery of distinct brain modules that underlie the ability to understand other people’s actions, feelings, and thoughts has enabled researchers to study the neuroscience of empathic responses and distinguish between cognitive and affective reactions to others (Decety and Jackson 2006, Hein and Singer 2010, Preston and de Waal 2002). Research on cognitive empathy (i.e., perspective taking, theory of mind, mentalizing) reveals that the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) is involved not only when people mentalize other people’s thoughts, but also when they reflect on their own. Ventral parts of the mPFC are activated during self-reflection and mentalizing similar others, and dorsal parts are activated when mentalizing dissimilar others. The study of affective empathy has focused on mirror neurons, indicating that exposure to pain or to the emotions of others elicits parallel neural activity in the perceiver’s brain. Specifically, a pain matrix is activated, which involves the bilateral interior insula, the rostral anterior cingulate cortex, the brain stem, and the cerebellum. These effects are associated with scores on self-reported empathic concerns and are shown to predict actual prosocial behavior, as seen in Masten, et al. 2011. Moreover, as shown in Singer, et al. 2006, the neural-empathy response is related to the participant’s relation to the sufferer, the appraisal of whether the suffering is justified, the participant’s prior experience with the situation, and the intensity of inflicted pain. Recent research on the role of oxytocin in empathy and prosocial responses shows mixed results—this neuropeptide sometimes is related to prosocial and affiliative behaviors and other times it is not. For a comprehensive review of these findings, see Kemp and Guastella 2011. Singer, et al. 2008 shows that oxytocin reduces amygdala activation and increases prosocial behavior among individuals who are not typically prosocial, suggesting that fear inhibits prosocial behavior among these individuals.

                                                                                                                                                                            • Decety, Jean, and Philip L. Jackson. 2006. A social-neuroscience perspective on empathy. Current Directions in Psychological Science 15.2: 54–58.

                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1111/j.0963-7214.2006.00406.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                              The authors review neuropsychological findings concerning brain modules that are related to imagined pain, and they suggest a model for empathy that emphasizes the distinction between brain activity underpinning personal reactions and empathic responses to the pain of others.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Hein, Grit, and Tania Singer. 2010. Neuroscience meets social psychology: An integrative approach to human empathy and prosocial behavior. In Prosocial motives, emotions, and behavior: The better angels of our nature. Edited by Mario Mikulincer and Phillip R. Shaver, 109–125. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1037/12061-000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                The authors provide an integrative introduction to the social neuropsychology of theory of mind, empathy, and prosocial behaviors, and they offer future directions for integrating social and neuropsychological theory and research.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Kemp, Andrew H., and Adam J. Guastella. 2011. The role of oxytocin in human affect: A novel hypothesis. Current Directions in Psychological Science 20.4: 222–231.

                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1177/0963721411417547Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                  The authors review findings from clinical, behavioral, social, and neuropsychological research regarding the role of oxytocin in human affect, and they propose the social-approach/withdrawal hypothesis, arguing that oxytocin promotes both prosocial and aggressive behaviors.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Masten, Carrie L., Sylvia A. Morelli, and Naomi I. Eisenberger. 2011. An fMRI investigation of empathy for “social pain” and subsequent prosocial behavior. NeuroImage 55.1: 381–388.

                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.11.060Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                    Individuals who displayed more activity in empathy-related brain areas, when observing social exclusion, behaved more prosocially toward a victim in a subsequent interaction. The authors propose that the mPFC may serve an important role in linking trait empathy and prosocial behavior.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Preston, Stephanie D., and de Waal, Frans B. M.. 2002. Empathy: Its ultimate and proximate bases. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25.1: 1–72.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      In one of the pioneering studies of empathy, the authors propose the perception-action model (PAM) and explain how it relates to prefrontal functioning.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Singer, Tania, Ben Seymour, John P. O’Doherty, Klass E. Stephan, Raymond J. Dolan, and Chris D. Frith. 2006. Empathic neural responses are modulated by the perceived fairness of others. Nature 439.7075: 466–469.

                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1038/nature04271Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                        Activation in pain-related brain areas was observed when participants witnessed a “fair player” in pain. This response correlated with self-reported empathy. However, when men observed an “unfair player” in pain, these empathy-related responses were replaced by an increased activation of reward-related areas, which correlated with the desire for revenge.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Singer, Tania, Romana Snozzi, Geoffrey Bird, et al. 2008. Effects of oxytocin and prosocial behavior on brain responses to direct and vicariously experienced pain. Emotion 8.6: 781–791.

                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1037/a0014195Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                          Empathy-relevant brain activation in the anterior insula or the anterior cingulate cortex was not enhanced by oxytocin or positively correlated with prosocial behavior as previous research has indicated. However, oxytocin reduced amygdala activation when “selfish” participants received painful stimulation to their own hand, suggesting that selfishness may be driven by anxiety.

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