Human prosocial behavior implies a helping behavior directed towards others in order to bring them an advantage or even physical or psychological well-being. It is a voluntary behavior intended to serve, to help. It is for example to respond positively to the emotional suffering of others, to help, comfort, support others, share and donate then to cooperate.
The emergence of the concept of prosocial behavior dates back to ancient philosophy. To understand prosocial behavior, we must answer two questions: “When and why do we help others?” Many factors are involved, among them are contextual, individual, cultural, cognitive, biological, or motivational factors. Researchers have often tried to determine whether helping behavior has altruistic or selfish purpose.
The term prosocial behavior is the antonym of antisocial behavior.
Many researchers have raised the question if prosocial behavior is innate (basic instinct to help) or acquired (learned from an early age).
The researches has concerned mainly prosocial behaviors during childhood and adolescence. However, researchers are looking more and more about the factors influencing prosocial behaviors in adults.
In ancient philosophy, Aristotle, Hobbes, Nietzsche, or Freud were already wondering about the nature of man and his behavior. They wondered why people would behave prosocialement. This formulation comes from the fact that they saw humans as the epitome of selfishness.
The researchers are now wondering about the choice of this formulation. Since the time of Aristotle, we did not ask why people do not always behave in prosocial ways. The hypothesis of a selfish motivation is not sufficient, as prosocial behavior may result from an altruistic motivation. History provides many examples that may reinforce the altruistic hypothesis. Thus, at the risk of his life, Miep Gies hided Anne Frank under the Nazis; Mother Teresa devoted her life to helping the poor, many men and women have helped victims of the World Trade Center risking their lives.
In 1908, McDougall was the first to take an interest in prosocial behavior from a psychological point of view. For him, these behaviors were a result of “tender emotions” created by the parental instinct.
In 1951, Lewin 7 rejected Aristotelian theory (Accounted-for-variance approach) and favors the Galilean relativity, that is to say, he identified universal and genotypic relationships through laboratory experiments. Thus, different variables are highlighted, such as the “social learning,” which are to consider the award on costs – reducing tensions, norms and roles, etc. These variables are sub-factors such as sex and responsibility.
From the 1960s, the research is mainly based on the highlight of the murder of Kitty Genovese Katherine during which absence of the witnesses reaction drew the attention of scientists. The researchers then questioned when we adopt a prosocial behavior. Thus, they turn to the study of prosocial behavior in an emergency situation or in the kidney donation for example, or in fact to thwart someone who is about to drive while intoxicated.
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