Pro-social behavior refers to behavior intended to help others. The term had originated during the 1970s. This behavior is characterized by a concern for the emotions, feelings, and welfare of others. Pro-social behavior comprises a wide variety of actions like helping, sharing, comforting, and cooperating. Besides benefitting the recipients of help, pro-social behavior benefits the helper as well.
BENEFITS ACCRUING TO THE HELPER
Several kinds of research have shown that people engaging in pro-social behaviors usually experience better moods. Additionally, people who help and care for others experience negative attitudes less frequently. So besides increasing positivity, pro-social behavior also reduces negativity.
Several researchers have found that pro-social behavior combats the adverse effects of stress. This is because it boosts positive emotions and helps the person get out of negative feelings. Helping others is undoubtedly a great way to reduce stress.
BETTER SOCIAL RELATIONS
Better social support definitely helps get through tough times. Several pieces of research have shown that social support has a powerful impact on the well-being of a person. Better social relations also reduce the chances of getting into depression.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF PRO-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR?
The different types are distinguished based on why they are produced.
Proactive: These are pro-social actions that are done for generating benefits for one’s own self. These actions are mainly motivated by status-linked goals.
Reactive: These actions are performed in response to individual needs, which vary from person to person.
Altruistic: These include actions to help and care for others without any expectation of personal benefit. These actions are linked to being liked and praised by the community.
There is a misconception that altruism is the same as pro-social behavior, but they are different concepts in reality. Pro-social behavior ultimately confers some benefits to the self. At the same time, altruism is motivated purely out of concern for the individual.
WHAT INDUCES PRO-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR IN A PERSON?
In some cases, people even put their own lives at risk to help others, sometimes even complete strangers. Social scientists have tried for a long to know what exactly induces this behavior. The question is indeed fascinating: why would people do something that benefits others but offers no immediate benefit to them. There are numerous reasons why people engage in pro-social behavior.
Pro-social behaviors are often compelled by factors like self-gratification like doing things to improve one’s self-image, reciprocal benefits like doing something nice for a return favor, and altruistic reasons like performing actions purely out of empathy.
The norm of reciprocity suggests that when people help someone, the person feels compelled to help in return. When a person gets help from another, he automatically assumes a duty to return that favor as and when possible. This encourages pro-social behavior in the helper as well.
Pro-social behavior is usually fostered in the early years of life, that is, during childhood itself. Parents teach values of sharing, caring, and empathy to their children. If these values are fostered in youth and adolescence, then it promotes pro-social behavior in adults.
WHAT IS THE BYSTANDER EFFECT?
Characteristics of the situation have a powerful impact on whether or not people engage in pro-social actions. The bystander effect is one of the best examples of how circumstances can impact helping behaviors. The bystander effect is a fascinating psychological theory. According to this effect, the tendency to help the other person reduces when many other people are present. The bystander effect can be clearly seen in the case of road accidents.
Interestingly, witnesses assume that since so many other people are present, someone else will automatically help them. So even if a person wants to help the other, the thought that someone else would do it stops the person from helping. Sadly, these assumptions run through all the people present, and none of them actually helps the individual in need.
FACTORS INFLUENCING PRO-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR
Several pieces of research on the bystander effect gave a better understanding of why people help in some situations but not in others. Experts have discovered many different situational variables that influence and sometimes interfere with pro-social behaviors.
Many times people are afraid of helping only to discover that their help was unwanted or unwarranted. To avoid being judged by other bystanders, people prefer to take no action. This fear of judgment or embarrassment actually stops them from helping others even if they really want to.
RESPONSE FROM OTHER INDIVIDUALS
People also tend to look to others for their response in such situations, mainly if the event contains some level of ambiguity or confusion. If no one else seems to be reacting, then individuals also become less likely to respond. Basically, they look upon others for their behavior and try to act on similar lines.
NUMBER OF BYSTANDERS
The bystander effect has well-illustrated that when more people are present, the tendency of a particular individual to help the one need reduces significantly. Also more the people around, the less personal responsibility people assume in a situation. This is popularly known as diffusion of responsibility.
TOWARDS THE END
Besides benefitting the recipient of the help, pro-social behavior also benefits the doer. In this way, both persons receive support in separate ways. If pro-social behavior is taught in early childhood and nurtured in adolescence, it would bloom in adulthood.