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WHY DO WE HELP?

  • People may provide each other with help, otherwise termed prosocial behaviour, for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons may be egoistic (selfishly motivated) or altruistic (selflessly motivated).

  • Egoistic models of prosocial behaviour include the influences of existing negative mood, the desire to improve one's mood, and the relative costs and benefits of helping. Being in a negative mood, having no desire to improve one's mood, and perceiving more costs than benefits tend to decrease helping.

  • Altruistic models of prosocial behaviour include the influences of empathy, nurturing feelings toward the target, and a goal to promote the target's welfare on the likelihood of helping behaviour. Each of these factors tends to increase helping.

  • Models that discuss the influence of norms suggest that the norm of reciprocity increases helping, because we expect that if we help others, they will help us (and they often do). They also suggest that social norms about when helping is appropriate impact our tendency to help.

WHEN DO WE HELP?

  • According to the decision model of bystander intervention, there are five steps that are required for helping to occur: noticing the emergency, interpreting the situation as an emergency, feeling a personal responsibility to help, deciding how to help, and providing the help.

  • Being aware of the obstacles that arise in completing each step can enable you to overcome them. People do not notice emergencies because they are focused on their own concerns or are otherwise distracted—or the event is not clear or nearby. People do not interpret situations as emergencies when they are ambiguous, when the relationship between the parties involved is unclear, or when pluralistic ignorance occurs; if others do not seem to think there is an emergency, we decide there must not be one. People do not accept responsibility for helping in groups—all the more when other people are present (diffusion of responsibility). Finally, people will not be able to decide how to help if they do not have the appropriate knowledge set or are insecure in that knowledge.

WHAT ARE OTHER INFLUENCES ON HELPING?

  • Many other factors can influence helping behaviour. Some of these factors include the helper's mood, the similarity of the helper to the target person, the attractiveness of the target person (whether physical or in terms of personality), the gender, the behavioural mimicry of the helper, the helper having the five traits composing an "altruistic personality," and the modelling of helping behaviour.

  • People do not always welcome help. Sometimes it is embarrassing to need help because people sometimes want to feel self–sufficient. People often do not like to be helped with matters that are tied to their self–esteem. In particular, they want to be able to accomplish things on their own in areas important to them. If the helper exudes superiority while helping, it will also make the help less welcome and less appreciated. Indeed, such assistance may hurt more than it helps.

HOW CAN WE INCREASE PROSOCIAL BEHAVIOUR?

  • People's tendency to help can be increased by others modelling prosocial behaviour to them. Models
    can be real–life people or people in the media. Older children tend to benefit more from this sort of modelling, and it is prosocial behaviour that must be modelled for helping to increase—not just positive behaviour in general.

  • By being educated about psychological principles related to prosocial behaviour, you can apply them to your real–life situations and possibly catch yourself before you decide not to help someone who is
    truly in need.