Prosocial Behavior

The following is an excerpt from “More about Generosity: An Addendum to the Generosity, Social Psychology and Philanthropy Literature Reviews,” (University of Notre Dame, July 7, 2009).

Ahmed, Ali. 2007. “Can education affect pro-social behavior? Cops, economists and humanists in social dilemmas.” International Journal of Social Economics 35(4):298-307.

The purpose of this paper is to examine whether education and training affect pro-social behavior. Economics students are often accused of being less pro-social. The explanations given are that less pro-social people choose to study economics or that economics studies indoctrinate students to selfish behavior. The paper experimentally tests these postulations. The paper uses the prisoner’s dilemma game and stag hunt game to study cooperation across different groups of students. The experiment supports neither of the postulations: economics students would be indoctrinated or less pro-social people choose to study economics. However, the study shows that police cadets, who go through an education where teamwork and cooperation is promoted, become more cooperative and pro-social after their completed education. In contrast to earlier studies, this paper does not simply study economics students, but also examines if students in educational programs that promote loyalty and cooperation and encourage teamwork are more pro-social than other students.

Anderson, C. A. (2006). A theoretical model of the effects and consequences of playing video games. In P. Vorderer, & J. Bryant, (Eds.), Playing video games: Motives responses and consequences (pp. 363–378).
Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates]

The effects of media with prosocial content on prosocial thought, feeling, and behavior.

Anesi, Vincent. 2008. “Incentives and prosocial behavior in democratic societies.” Journal of Economic Psychology 29(6):849-855.

This paper studies the relationship between monetary incentives to encourage citizens’ contributions to a social good (voting, charity donation, etc.) and the society’s consideration for that good in the presence of social signaling. We establish that, no matter how much citizens value the social good, low incentives (or disincentives) may emerge as the unique majority voting outcome when concerns for social reputation are sufficiently high.

Ariely, Dan, Anat Bracha, and Stephan Meier. 2009. “Doing good or doing well? Image motivation and monetary incentives in behaving prosocially.” American Economic Review 99(1):544-555.

This paper examines image motivation—the desire to be liked and well‐regarded by others—
as a driver in prosocial behavior (doing good), and asks whether extrinsic monetary incentives
(doing well) have a detrimental effect on prosocial behavior due to crowding out of image

Baumeister, Roy F., E.J. Masicampo, and C. Nathan DeWall. 2009. “Prosocial benefits of feeling free: Disbelief in free will increases aggression and reduces helpfulness.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 35(2):260 – 268.

Laypersons’ belief in free will may foster a sense of thoughtful reflection and willingness to exert energy, thereby promoting helpfulness and reducing aggression, and so disbelief in free will may make behavior more reliant on selfish, automatic impulses and therefore less socially desirable. Three studies tested the hypothesis that disbelief in free will would be linked with decreased helping and increased aggression. In Experiment 1, induced disbelief in free will reduced willingness to help others. Experiment 2 showed that chronic disbelief in free will was associated with reduced helping behavior. In Experiment 3, participants induced disbelief in free will caused participants to act more aggressively than others. Although the findings do not speak to the existence of free will, the current results suggest that disbelief in free will reduces helping and increases aggression.

Biglan, Anthony, and Erika Hinds. 2009. “Evolving prosocial and sustainable neighborhoods and communities.” Annual Review of Clinical Psychology 5:169-196.

In this review, we examine randomized controlled trials of community interventions to affect health. The evidence supports the efficacy of community interventions for preventing tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use; several recent trials have shown the benefits of community interventions for preventing multiple problems of young people, including antisocial behavior. However, the next generation of community intervention research needs to reflect more fully the fact that most psychological and behavioral problems of humans are interrelated and result from the same environmental conditions. The evidence supports testing new comprehensive community interventions that focus on increasing nurturance in communities. Nurturing communities will be ones in which families, schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces (a) minimize biologically and socially toxic events, (b) richly reinforce prosocial behavior, and © foster psychological acceptance. Such interventions also have the potential to make neighborhoods more sustainable.

Boulet, Jacques, Lucy Healy, and Robyn Helton. 2008. “Gift relationships and their political economy: Of volunteering, community involvement and creating (a) civil society.” New Community Quarterly 6(2):28-41.

Caprara, Gian Vittorio, and Patrizia Steca. 2007. “Prosocial agency: The contribution of values and self-efficacy beliefs to prosocial behavior across ages.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 26(2):218-239.

A number of findings attest to the positive influence that prosocial behavior, namely people’s tendency to act voluntarily to benefit others, exerts on individual functioning and interpersonal transactions. A large sample from the Italian population belonging to six age groups participated in the study and filled out self–report questionnaires aimed at evaluating personal efficacy beliefs, values, and prosocial behavior. The present study examined a conceptual model in which self–efficacy beliefs and self–transcendence values—benevolence and universalism—operate in concert to promote prosocial behavior. The posited model accounted for a notable portion of the variance of prosocial behavior, ranging from 41% to 70% in both genders. Findings attest to the effects that self–transcendence values exert on prosocial behavior either directly, or indirectly through self–efficacy beliefs, in regulating affect and in managing interpersonal relationships.

Einolf, Christopher J. 2008. “Empathic concern and prosocial behaviors: A test of experimental results using survey data.” Social Science Research 37(4):1267-1279.

This study uses survey data to test the correlation between empathic concern and 14 different prosocial behaviors, including informal help to individuals and formal helping through institutions. Statistically significant correlations were found for 10 behaviors, but substantively meaningful correlations were only found for three, all of which were spontaneous, informal helping behaviors, where the individual needing help was directly present. The findings indicate that empathic concern may not be an important motivator for planned helping decisions and decisions to help others who are not immediately present, such as volunteering, charitable giving, and blood donation. The weak correlation between empathic concern and most helping behaviors indicates that individual differences in empathic concern may not play much a role in helping decisions.

Eisenberg, N. 2007. “Empathy-related responding and prosocial behavior.” Pp 71-80 in Novartis Foundation Symposia. Vol. 278, Empathy and Fairness, edited by Greg Bock and Jamie Good. West Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

In this paper I differentiate among empathy, sympathy and personal distress and discuss the central role of empathy-related responding in positive (including moral) development. Empathy-related responding, especially sympathy, is likely an important source of prosocial, other-oriented motivation. In fact, empathy-related responding, especially sympathy, has been associated with prosocial behaviour (voluntary behaviour intended to benefit another, e.g. helping, sharing); this relation has been obtained for both specific instances of empathy-related responding and for dispositional sympathy. In addition, sympathy (or sometimes empathy) has been linked to relatively high levels of moral reasoning and social competence, and to low levels of aggression and antisocial behaviour. In my talk, I will review research on the relation of empathy-related responding to prosocial behaviour, the consistency of costly prosocial behaviour over time and the possible role of sympathy in its consistency, and the relation of empathy-related responding to moral reasoning, antisocial behaviour and social competence. Examples of research, including longitudinal research in our laboratory, are provided to illustrate these relations. Because of its close relations to social and prosocial responding, an understanding of empathy-related responding contributes to efforts to promote children’s moral development.

Ellis, Wendy E., and Lynne Zabartany. 2007. “Peer group status as a moderator of group influence on children’s deviant, aggressive and prosocial behavior.” Child Development 78(4):1240-1254.

Group status was examined as a moderator of peer group socialization of deviant, aggressive, and prosocial behavior. In the fall and 3 months later, preadolescents and early adolescents provided self-reported scores for deviant behavior and group membership, and peer nominations for overt and relational aggression, prosocial behavior, and social preference. Using the social cognitive map, 116 groups were identified involving 526 children (282 girls; M age = 12.05). Hierarchical linear modeling revealed that high group centrality (visibility) magnified group socialization of relational aggression, deviant behavior, and prosocial behavior, and low group acceptance magnified socialization of deviant behavior. Results suggest group influence on behavior is not uniform but depends on group status, especially group visibility within the larger peer context.

Finkelstein, Marcia M. 2009. “Intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivational orientations and the volunteer process.” Personality and Individual Differences 46(5-6):653-658.

The present study incorporated the constructs of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation into an investigation of dispositional factors that contribute to volunteering. Recent research has conceptualized motivational tendencies as akin to personality variables, stable across time and situations. Volunteer motives, volunteer role identity, and prosocial personality were assessed, along with motivational orientation and time devoted to volunteering. Intrinsic motivation was positively associated with a volunteer self-concept, prosocial personality, volunteer time, and motive strength. This was particularly true for “internal” motives, those that are satisfied by the volunteer activity itself. Extrinsic orientation was most closely associated with “external” motives (specifically career aspirations), which require an outcome separate from the volunteer work in order to be fulfilled. The study was the first to consider constructs from the prevailing conceptual view of the volunteer process in the context of motivational orientation. The wider theoretical perspective offers insight into human behavior beyond volunteerism.

Gebauer, Jochen E., Michael Riketta, Philip Broemer, and Gregory R. Maio. 2008. “Pleasure and pressure based prosocial motivation: Divergent relations to subjective well-being.” Journal of Research in Personality 42(2):399-420.

We propose two fundamentally different motives for helping: gaining pleasure and fulfilling one’s duty (“pressure”). Using the newly developed Pleasure and Pressure based Prosocial Motivation Scale, we demonstrated the distinctiveness of pleasure and pressure based prosocial motivation in three studies. Although the two motives exhibited different relations to a variety of personality characteristics, they were similarly related to trans-situational helping. Of particular interest, pleasure based prosocial motivation was positively related to self-actualization, self-esteem, life satisfaction, and positive affect and negatively related to negative affect. On the contrary, pressure based prosocial motivation was unrelated to self-actualization, self-esteem, life satisfaction, and positive affect but positively related to negative affect. These results qualify research showing that prosocial life goals generally increase subjective well-being.

Grant, A.M. 2008. “Does intrinsic motivation fuel the prosocial fire? Motivational synergy in predicting persistence, performance, and productivity.” Journal of Applied Psychology 93(1):48-58.

Researchers have obtained conflicting results about the role of prosocial motivation in persistence, performance, and productivity. To resolve this discrepancy, I draw on self-determination theory, proposing that prosocial motivation is most likely to predict these outcomes when it is accompanied by intrinsic motivation. Two field studies support the hypothesis that intrinsic motivation moderates the association between prosocial motivation and persistence, performance, and productivity. In Study 1, intrinsic motivation strengthened the relationship between prosocial motivation and the overtime hour persistence of 58 firefighters. In Study 2, intrinsic motivation strengthened the relationship between prosocial motivation and the performance and productivity of 140 fundraising callers. Callers who reported high levels of both prosocial and intrinsic motivations raised more money 1 month later, and this moderated association was mediated by a larger number of calls made. I discuss implications for theory and research on work motivation.

-—-. 2007. “Relational job design and the motivation to make a prosocial difference.” Academy of Management Review 32(2):393-417.

This article illustrates how work contexts motivate employees to care about making a positive difference in other people’s lives. I introduce a model of relational job design to describe how jobs spark the motivation to make a prosocial difference, and how this motivation affects employees’ actions and identities. Whereas existing research focuses on individual differences and the task structures of jobs, I illuminate how the relational architecture of jobs shapes the motivation to make a prosocial difference.

Graziano, William G., Meara M. Habashi, Brad E. Sheese, and Renée M. Tobin. “Agreeableness, empathy, and helping: A person x situation perspective.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 93(1):583-599.

This research program explored links among prosocial motives, empathy, and helping behavior. Preliminary work found significant relations among components of self-reported empathy and personality (N = 223). In Study 1, the authors examined the generality of prosocial behavior across situations and group memberships of victims (N = 622). In Study 2, empathic focus and the victim’s out-group status were experimentally manipulated (N = 87). Study 3 (N = 245) replicated and extended Study 2 by collecting measures of prosocial emotions before helping. In Study 4 (N = 244), empathic focus and cost of helping as predictors of helping behavior were experimentally manipulated. Overall, prosocial motivation is linked to (a) Agreeableness as a dimension of personality, (b) proximal prosocial cognition and motives, and © helping behavior across a range of situations and victims. In persons low in prosocial motivation, when costs of helping are high, efforts to induce empathy situationally can undermine prosocial behavior.

Gretemeyer. T. “Effects of songs with prosocial lyrics on prosocial thoughts, affect, and behavior.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 45(1):186-190.

Previous research has shown that exposure to violent media increased aggression-related affect and thoughts, physiological arousal, and aggressive behavior as well as decreased prosocial tendencies. The present research examined the hypothesis that exposure to prosocial media promotes prosocial outcomes. Three studies revealed that listening to songs with prosocial (relative to neutral) lyrics increased the accessibility of prosocial thoughts, led to more interpersonal empathy, and fostered helping behavior. These results provide first evidence for the predictive validity of the General Learning Model.

Gurven, Michael, and Jeffrey Winking. 2008. “Collective action in action: Prosocial behavior in and out of the laboratory.” American Anthropologist 110(2):179-190.

Experiments have become a popular method to study altruism and cooperation in laboratory and, more recently, in field settings. However, few studies have examined whether behavior in experiments tells us anything about behavior in the “real world.” To investigate the external validity of several common experimental economics games, we compare game behavior with prosocial behavior among Tsimane forager-horticulturalists of lowland Bolivia. We find that food-sharing patterns, social visitation, beer production and consumption, labor participation, and contributions to a feast are not robustly correlated with levels of giving in the economics games. Payoff structure and socioecological context may be more important in predicting prosocial behavior in a wide variety of domains than stable personality traits. We argue that future experimental methods should be tailored to specific research questions, show reduced anonymity, and incorporate repeat measures under a variety of conditions to inform and redirect ethnographic study and build scientific theory.

Gurven, M., A. Zanolini, and E. Schniter. 2008. “Culture sometimes matters: Intra-cultural variation in pro-social behavior among Tsimane Amerindians.” Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 67(3-4):587-607.

Agent-centered models usually consider only individual-level variables in calculations of economic costs and benefits. There has been little consideration of social or cultural history on shaping payoffs in ways that impact decisions. To examine the role of local expectations on economic behavior, we explore whether village affiliation accounts for the variation in dictator game offers among the Tsimane of the Bolivian Amazon independently of other factors that could confound such an effect. Our analysis shows that significant differences in altruistic giving exist among villages, village patterns are recognized by residents, and offers likely reflect variation in social expectations rather than stable differences in norms of fairness.

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.

Three studies examined the hypothesis that mortality salience (MS) will increase prosocial behaviors when the prosocial cause promotes terror management processes. However, when the prosocial cause interferes with these processes, MS will reduce prosocial behavior. In Study 1, following a MS procedure, participants indicated their willingness to donate money to charity or to donate to an organ donation organization. In Study 2, a research assistant randomly distributed fliers with reminders of death or back pain, and another research assistant solicited participants’ assistance from either a charitable fund booth or an organ donation booth. Study 3 examined the impact of MS on helping a wheelchair-bound confederate or a walking confederate. The results indicated that MS increased charitable donations and increased help to a walking confederate. However, MS significantly decreased organ donation card signings and decreased help to a wheelchair-bound confederate. The discussion examines the tension between personal fear and worldview validation.

_Hofer, Jan, Holger Busch, Athanasios Chasiotis, Joscha Kartner, and Domingo Campos. 2008. “Concern for generativity and its relation to implicit pro-social power motivation, generative goals, and satisfaction with life: A cross-cultural investigation.” Journal of Personality 76(1):1-30.

So far, cross-cultural research on generativity has been lacking. The present study tests the cross-cultural applicability of an integrative model of generativity proposed by McAdams and de St. Aubin. Measures of implicit pro-social power motivation, a general disposition for generativity, generative goals, and life satisfaction were administered to adults in Cameroon, Costa Rica, and Germany. These measures cover the intrapersonal part of the generativity model. After examining the comparability of the measures across the three cultures, cultural differences in the level of each variable were inspected. Finally, the hypothesized model was tested via structural equation modeling. Results show that the model can be successfully applied in all three cultural samples. This finding has interesting implications for the further investigation of generativity, particularly its social antecedents and behavioral consequences.

Kavussanu, Maria, and Ian D. Boardley. 2009. “The prosocial and antisocial behavior in sport scale.” Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology 31(1):97-117.

This research aimed to (a) develop a measure of prosocial and antisocial behavior in sport, (b) examine its invariance across sex and sport, and © provide evidence for its discriminant and concurrent validity. We conducted two studies. In study 1, team sport athletes (N=1,213) recruited from 103 teams completed questionnaires assessing demographics and prosocial and antisocial behaviors in sport. Factor analyses revealed two factors representing prosocial behavior and two factors representing antisocial behavior. The model had a very good fit to the data and showed configural, metric, and scalar invariance across sex and sport. The final scale consisted of 20 items. In Study 2, team-sport athletes (N=106) completed the scale and measures of empathy and goal orientation. Analyses provided support for the discriminant and concurrent validity of the scale. In conclusion, the new scale can be used to measure prosocial and antisocial behaviors in team sport.

Marsh, Abigail A., Nalini Ambady, and Megan N. Kozak. 2007. “Accurate identification of fear facial expression predicts prosocial behavior.” Emotion 7(2):239-251.

The fear facial expression is a distress cue that is associated with the provision of help and prosocial behavior. Prior psychiatric studies have found deficits in the recognition of this expression by individuals with antisocial tendencies. However, no prior study has shown accuracy for recognition of fear to predict actual prosocial or antisocial behavior in an experimental setting. In 3 studies, the authors tested the prediction that individuals who recognize fear more accurately will behave more prosocially. In Study 1, participants who identified fear more accurately also donated more money and time to a victim in a classic altruism paradigm. In Studies 2 and 3, participants’ ability to identify the fear expression predicted prosocial behavior in a novel task designed to control for confounding variables. In Study 3, accuracy for recognizing fear proved a better predictor of prosocial behavior than gender, mood, or scores on an empathy scale.

Mikulincer, Mario, and Philip R. Shaver. 2007. “Boosting attachment security to develop mental health, prosocial values, and inter-group tolerance.” Psychological Inquiry 18(3):139-156.

In this article, we conceptualize the sense of attachment security as an inner resource and present theory and research on the broaden and build cycle of attachment security generated by the actual or symbolic encounter with external or internalized loving and caring relationship partners. We also propose that the body of research stimulated by attachment theory offers productive hints about interventions that might increase positive experiences and prosocial behavior by bolstering a person’s sense of security. On this basis, we review recent experimental studies showing how interventions designed to increase attachment security have beneficial effects on mental health, prosocial behavior, and intergroup relations, and discuss unaddressed issues concerning the mechanism underlying the beneficial effects of these interventions, the temporal course of these effects, and their interaction with countervailing forces.

Michie, Susan. 2009. “Pride and gratitude: How positive emotions influence the prosocial behaviors of organizational leaders.” Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies 15(4):393-403.

This study investigated whether two positive morally relevant emotions, pride and gratitude, were associated with the prosocial behaviors exhibited by organizational leaders. Pride and gratitude were measured as dispositional tendencies in leaders across various types of organizations. The results revealed that a leader’s propensity to experience authentic pride was positively related to two types of prosocial behavior—social justice and altruism. Furthermore, the results indicated that leader gratitude mediated the effects of pridefulness on social justice behaviors.

McGinley, Meredith, and Gustavo Carlo. 2007. “Two sides of the same coin? The relations between prosocial and physically aggressive behaviors.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence 36(3):337-349.

The direct and indirect relations between six types of prosocial behavior and physical aggression were examined. Data were gathered from 252 college students (M age = 21.67 years; 184 women) who completed measures of sympathy, prosocial behavior, and physical aggression. Structural equation modeling revealed that sympathy fully mediated the relations between compliant prosocial behaviors and physical aggression, and partially mediated the relations between altruism and physical aggression and public prosocial behaviors and physical aggression. The findings suggest that the relations between prosocial behaviors and aggression are complex and that prosocial behavior should not be treated as a unitary construct.

Rutten, Esther A, Maja Deković, Geert Jan Stams, Carlo Schuengel, Jan B. Hoeksma, and Gert Biesta. 2008. “On-and off-field antisocial and prosocial behavior in adolescent soccer players: A multilevel study.” Journal of Adolescence 31(3):371-387.

This study investigated to what extent team membership predicts on- and off-field antisocial and prosocial behavior in (pre)adolescent athletes. Effects of team-membership were related to characteristics of the team environment, such as relational support from the coach towards team members, fair play attitude and sociomoral reasoning within the team, and sociomoral climate. The sample consisted of N=331 male soccer players. Multilevel analyses revealed that 21% of the variance in off-field antisocial behavior, and 8% and 14% of the variance in on-field antisocial and prosocial behavior, respectively, could be attributed to characteristics of the sporting environment, including relational support from the coach, exposure to high levels of sociomoral reasoning about sports dilemmas, and positive team attitude toward fair play. The results highlight the importance of contextual factors in explaining both antisocial and prosocial behavior in adolescent athletes and emphasize the role of organized youth sports as a socialization context.

Simpson, Brent, and Rob Willer. 2008. “Altruism and indirect reciprocity: The interaction of person and situation in prosocial behavior.” Social Psychology Quarterly 71(1):37-52.

A persistent puzzle in the social and biological sciences is the existence of prosocial behavior, actions that benefit others, often at a cost to oneself. Recent theoretical models and empirical studies of indirect reciprocity show that actors behave prosocially in order to develop an altruistic reputation and receive future benefits from third parties. Accordingly, individuals should stop investing in reputations via prosocial behavior when a future benefit (via indirect reciprocity) is unlikely. The conclusion that the absence of reputational incentives necessarily leads to egoistic behavior contrasts sharply with models of heterogeneous social preferences. Such models demonstrate the theoretical plausibility of populations composed of egoists and altruists. Results of Study One show that actors classified a priori as egoists respond strategically to reputational incentives, whereas those classified a priori as altruists are less affected by these incentives. Egoists act prosocially when reputational incentives are at stake but not when opportunities for indirect reciprocity are absent, while altruists tend to act prosocially regardless of whether reputational incentives are present. These results suggest that altruistic behavior can result from non-strategic altruism or reputation-building egoism. Study Two replicates these results and explores indirect reciprocation of others’ prosocial acts. We found that altruists indirectly reciprocate at higher levels than egoists, and individuals tend to discount others’ prosocial behaviors when they occur in the presence of reputational incentives. As a result, public prosocial behaviors are indirectly reciprocated less than private prosocial behaviors. In line with our argument that altruists pay less attention to reputational incentives, egoists showed a greater tendency than altruists to discount others’ public prosocial behaviors. The results support the growing focus on heterogeneity of individuals’ social preferences in models of altruism and indirect reciprocity.

Shipley, Andrew. 2008. Social comparison and prosocial behavior: An applied study of social identity theory in community food drives. Psychological Reports 102(2):425-434.

Social Identity Theory and the concept of social comparison have inspired research on individuals, addressing effects of personal and environmental factors in directing social attention. The theory’s conceptual origins, however, suggest that social comparison may have behavioral implications as well. Such behaviors may include attempts by an individual to enhance the relative status of his in-group on a salient dimension of comparison. Such behavior is referred to as “social competition.” In two studies, the effects of social comparison and social competition were measured in the real-world environment of community food drives. Participants were aggregated by household; 600 households in upper middle-class neighborhoods in Eugene and Salem, Oregon, were contacted. In Study 1 of 300 households, it was hypothesized that inclusion of a social competition cue in requests for donation would significantly increase the likelihood of donation. This hypothesis was supported. Study 2 was done to clarify the possible role in a social comparison of perceived in-group inferiority in the prior observed increase in donations. The inclusion of a social comparison cue in the donation request significantly increased donations in households of the second study. The findings suggest that researchers should expand study of the theory’s behavioral implications, including the role of social comparison in prosocial behavior.

Small, Deborah A., and Uri Simonsohn. 2008. “Friends of victims: Personal experience and prosocial behavior.” Journal of Consumer Research 35(3):532-542.

Why do different people give to different causes? We show that the sympathy inherent to a close relationship with a victim extends to other victims suffering from the same misfortunes that have afflicted their friends and loved ones. Both sympathy and donations are greater among those related to a victim, and they are greater among those in a communal relationship as compared to those in an exchange relationship. Experiments that control for information support causality and rule out the alternative explanation that any effect is driven by the information advantage possessed by friends of victims.

Stel, Marϊelle, Rick B. Van Baaren, and Roos Vonk. 2008.“Effects of mimicking: Acting prosocially by being emotionally moved.” European Journal of Social Psychology 38(6):965-976.

Mimicry is functional for empathy and bonding purposes. Studies on the consequences of mimicry at a behavioral level demonstrated that mimicry increases prosocial behavior. However, these previous studies focused on the mimickee. In the present paper, we investigated whether mimickers also become more helpful due to mimicry. In two studies, we have demonstrated that participants, who mimicked expressions of a person shown on a video, donated more money to a charity than participants who did not mimic. Moreover, the processes by which mimicry and prosocial behavior are related largely remain empirically unexamined in existing literature. The results of Study 2 confirmed our hypothesis that affective empathy mediates the relationship between mimicry and prosocial behavior. This suggests that mimicry created an affective empathic mindset, which activated prosocial behaviors directed toward others.

Stutzer, Alois, Lorenz Goette, and Michael Zehnder. 2007. “Active decisions and prosocial behavior.” Working Paper No. 07-13, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Boston, MA.

In this paper, we propose a decision framework where people are individually asked to either actively consent to or dissent from some pro-social behavior. We hypothesize that confronting individuals with the choice of whether to engage in a specific pro-social behavior contributes to the formation of issue-specific altruistic preferences, while simultaneously involving a commitment. The hypothesis is tested in a large-scale field experiment on blood donations. We find that this “active-decision” intervention substantially increases the actual donation behavior of people who had not fully formed preferences beforehand.

Twenge, Jean, et al. 2007. “Social exclusion decreases prosocial behavior.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 92(1):56-66.

In 7 experiments, the authors manipulated social exclusion by telling people that they would end up alone later in life or that other participants had rejected them. Social exclusion caused a substantial reduction in prosocial behavior. Socially excluded people donated less money to a student fund, were unwilling to volunteer for further lab experiments, were less helpful after a mishap, and cooperated less in a mixed-motive game with another student. The results did not vary by cost to the self or by recipient of the help, and results remained significant when the experimenter was unaware of condition. The effect was mediated by feelings of empathy for another person but was not mediated by mood, state self-esteem, belongingness, trust, control, or self-awareness. The implication is that rejection temporarily interferes with emotional responses, thereby impairing the capacity for empathic understanding of others, and as a result, any inclination to help or cooperate with them is undermined.

Vaculik, Mark, J. Prochazka, and P. Kveton. 2007. “The relation between prosocial behavior and demanding prosocial behavior.” Studia Psychologica 49(2):157-166.

The research is focused on prosocial behavior. The authors are trying to answer this question: Will a prosocially acting person demand more prosocial behavior than a person with smaller tendency to prosocial behavior. The authors also concentrated on the relation between these tendencies and gender. The research group consisted of 340 respondents each of whom completed a questionnaire identifying tendencies to act prosocially and to demand prosocial behavior. According to the results there is a positive relation between the tendency to prosocial behavior and the tendency to demand prosocial behavior. Gender has no effect on the tendency to prosocial behavior but influences the tendency to demand prosocial behavior – women have stronger tendency to demand prosocial behavior than men. (PsycInfo)

Van Rompay, Thomas J.L., Dorette J. Vonk, and Marieke L. Fransen. 2009. “The eye of the camera: Effects of security cameras on prosocial behavior.” Environment and Behavior 41(1):60-74.

This study addresses the effects of security cameras on prosocial behavior. Results from previous studies indicate that the presence of others can trigger helping behavior, arising from the need for approval of others. Extending these findings, the authors propose that security cameras can likewise trigger such approval-seeking behaviors by implying the presence of a watchful eye. Because people vary in the extent to which they strive for others’ approval, it was expected that the effects of security cameras on prosocial behavior vary with participants’ need for approval. To test these predictions, an experimental study was conducted with “presence of security camera” and “need for approval” as independent variables. Results showed that participants indeed offered more help in the presence of a security camera but only to the extent that this helping involved public or observable behavior. As expected, this effect was more pronounced for individuals high in need for approval. Practical implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.

Vollhardt, Johanna Ray. 2009. “Altruism born of suffering and prosocial behavior following adverse life events: A review and conceptualization.” Social Justice Research 22(1):53-97.

This paper introduces the concept of “altruism born of suffering,” and provides a review and integration of relevant research and theories from various disciplines. In contrast to the well-supported notion that prosocial behavior is rooted in positive experiences, whereas violence and adversity often contribute to further violence and antisocial behavior, it is proposed that suffering may actually enhance the motivation to help other disadvantaged members of society, including outgroups. A motivational process model is presented that includes a typology of altruism born of suffering, integrates clinical and social psychological perspectives on underlying processes, and proposes potential mediators and moderators. Relevant empirical studies are reviewed that provide initial support for this model. A particular emphasis is placed on victims of group-based violence, and implications for intergroup relations and social justice.

Wilson, D.S. D.T. O’Brien, and A. Sesma. 2009. “Human prosociality from an evolutionary perspective: Variation and correlations at a city-wide scale.” Evolution and Human Behavior 30(3):190-200.

Prosociality is a fundamental theme in all branches of the human behavioral sciences. Evolutionary theory sets an even broader stage by examining prosociality in all species, including the distinctive human capacity to cooperate in large groups of unrelated individuals. We use evolutionary theory to investigate human prosociality at the scale of a small city (Binghamton, NY), based on survey data and a direct measure of prosocial behavior. In a survey of public school students (Grades 6–12), individual prosociality correlates strongly with social support, which is a basic requirement for prosociality to succeed as a behavioral strategy in Darwinian terms. The most prosocial individuals receive social support from multiple sources (e.g., family, school, neighborhood, religion and extracurricular activities). Neighborhood social support is significant as a group-level variable in addition to an individual-level variable. The median income of a neighborhood does not directly influence individual prosociality, but only indirectly through forms of social support. Variation in neighborhood quality, as measured by the survey, corresponds to the likelihood that a stamped addressed letter dropped on the sidewalk of a given neighborhood will be mailed. We discuss the results in relation to evolutionary theory, the experimental economics literature and the social capital literature in an effort to integrate the study of human prosociality across disciplines.