5. Prosocial Behavior
Behavior that benefits others or has positive
Acts intended to benefit others.
Any behavior that is initiated with the
purpose of increasing another person’s
physical or psychological well-being and has
a positive consequence for that person.
What prosocial behaviors do you engage in?
When one person helps another person for
no reward, and even at some cost to oneself.
Evolutionary Biology Explanation:
Behavior that benefits other organisms but
has some cost. (Cost & Benefit measured in
Kin Selection Theory
Cognitive Psychology Explanation:
9. Evolutionary Explanation
Kin Selection Theory (Hamilton, 1963)
Individuals are more likely to sacrifice
themselves for relatives than non-relatives.
I only saved
you because I
10. Kin Selection Theory
Hamilton based much of his theory on
observations of insects and animals…
R x B > C
Genetic Relativeness x Benefit > Costs
SciShow on Altruism
11. Building on the Kin
Selfish Gene Theory (Dawkins, 1989)
What looks like self-sacrifice could, in reality,
promote survival of your genes.
If your brother survives, your genes do as well.
Egoism: The theory that one’s self is, or should be,
the motivation and the goal of one’s own actions.
13. Naeger et al (2013)
Aim: To determine the role of altruism in a Queenless
Method: Observed behaviors in a bee hive suffering from
colony collapse. (No queen to lay eggs anymore).
Worker bees begin to lay eggs (genetically selfish action)
but also continue to work cooperatively to supply and
defend their colony (altruistic).
Conclusion: While selfish behavior did increase, the
bees still demonstrated larger amounts of altruism than
Kin Selection would predict.
14. Simmons et al (1977)
Aim: To investigate the likelihood that close relatives would become
Method: Performed research on the likelihood that family members
donated their kidneys.
86% of parents agreed to be donors but only 47% of siblings agreed.
It was found that when siblings were donors, the recipient and the donor
were significantly closer in age and more likely to be of the same sex
than were non-donors. Generally, the recipients felt very close to the
potential donors, but not always.
Conclusions: The theory predicted that parents and siblings should
have been equally as likely to volunteer. This shows that sharing genes
alone is enough to get you to act alturistically.
15. Stewart-Williams (2007)
Aim: To investigate the nature of altruism directed towards
kin and non-kin.
Method: Had 295 college students take a questionnaire
on past and hypothetical instances of helping. Three types
of helping were questioned.
Low-Cost Helping: Asked how often the participants had
helped and were helped by others in regards to instances
such as emotional support.
Medium Cost Helping: Asked how often the participants
had helped and were helped by others in regards to
instances such as help during illnesses, crisis, or financial
High Cost Helping: Asked hypothetical questions about
likelihood to donate a kidney or risking their life to help
16. Stewart-Williams (2007)
Low Cost: People helped Friends more than Siblings.
Medium Cost: People helped Friends and Siblings
High Cost: People were willing to help Siblings more
Conclusions: The likelihood of altruism was
impacted by the costs associated with the action and
the person receiving the help.
17. Kin Selection Theory
Supported by Empirical
Examples of animals and
support the theory.
Does not explain why
people help people who
are not related to
Blood alone does not
create kinship ties.
Community does so as
Does not address why
when it offers little
18. Evolutionary Explanations
for Prosocial Behavior
Direct Reciprocity – “I’ll scratch your back, then you
Spatial Collection - “Lend me some sugar, I am your
Kin Selection – R x B > Costs
Indirect Reciprocity – “I’ll scratch your back, and
someone else will scratch mine.”
Group Selection – “There is no I in Group.”
19. The Situation
James is paired up with a stranger in a
learning experiment on the value of electric
shocks. James is assigned the role of the
control (no shocks) and his partner is
assigned the treatment (electric shocks).
After watching his partner receive shocks, he
is asked if he wants to switch roles and
How can this be explained?
20. The Empathy-Altruism
Theory: Batson et al. (1981)
By feeling empathy for another person, it is
possible for true altruistic behavior to occur.
When we see a bad situation we face…
Personal Distress (anxiety and fear)
Empathetic Concern (sympathy and
21. Perspective Taking
True altruism requires perspective taking.
This requires three traits.
1. The observer must have had similar
2. The observer must be attached to the victim.
3. The observer must imagine what it is like to
be in the victim’s shoes.
22. Batson et al (1981)
Aim: To investigate individuals’ willingness to
help if they had an escape.
Using college students, researchers had
participants read a short description of Elaine.
One story led to high empathy and the other low
They then watched Elaine participate in a memory
test in which she received electric shocks. Some
participants were offered the choices of either
taking her place or filling out a questionnaire. The
other half were offered the choices of either taking
her place or watching the remainder of the trials.
23. Batson et al. (1981)
High Empathy: Most participants agreed to help
The difficulty of escape had little impact.
Low Empathy: Participants were less likely to
Easy escape: Less Helping
Difficult Escape: More Helping
Feeling empathy for a person drastically increases
the likelihood of altruistic behavior.
Negative State relief motivates altruistic behavior.
25. Contrasting the Theories
Kin Selection Theory
The focus is on genes that
operate beyond human
consciousness. Largely based on
observations of insects.
Altruism is seen as a behavior
that has a cost to the individual.
The theory is based on egoism.
The theory can explain why
humans are more likely to help
our kin. The theory does not
explain why we help non
Testing the theory is very difficult
because it is based on
The focus is on the human emotion
empathy as the primary motivation
Altruism is seen as a behavior that
benefits the individual.
The theory is based on altruism
The theory can explain why people
tend to behave altruistically in
situations where they feel empathy.
The theory does not explain why
people feel empathy but do not help.
It is relatively easy to test the theory
under lab conditions but difficult to
bring it into the real world.
26. The Joker’s Social
Why do the people on the ferries make the decisions
that they do? What motivated them?
Is this an example of Altruism? Why or why not?
Which explanation of altruism explains this situation
better? Is there another explanation for this behavior?
Do you think people would really act this way?
Create a list, based on your own predictions,
ranking the four cultures which we saw in Babies
on their likelihood to help. Be prepared to
explain your thinking.
30. Whiting (1975)
Aim: To investigate the impact of child-rearing differences and their impact
on prosocial behaviors.
Examined children aged 3-11 in Kenya, the Philipines, Japan, India, and the
Kenya most prosocial
Mexico and the Phillipines more prosocial
Japan and India less prosocial
United States least prosocial
The responsibility to participate in household chores and in the care of younger
children was very important in determining prosocial behavior.
Children who competed in school and performed few household chores were
less likely to help.
31. Levine et al (2003)
Aim: To investigate the role that culture plays in
shaping the likelihood of helping in a non
Method: Observed helping activities in a field
experiment across big cities in 23 different
countries (e.g., Rio de Janeiro, Amsterdam,
Shanghai, Tel Aviv, New York, and 18 others) and
assessed how frequently strangers were being
helped in three different non-emergency
spontaneous helping situations requiring little effort
(e. g. alerting a stranger who dropped a pen).
32. Levine et al (2003)
Rio De Janeiro Brazil ranked #1
Copenhagen Denmark ranked #7
Shanghai China ranked # 8
Mexico City Mexico ranked #9
New York USA ranked #23
Conclusions: Countries that emphasize social responsibilities over
personal achievement, and have a slower pace of life, tend to be
more helpful to strangers on the street. However, there are
Critical Thinking: ?
33. Korte & Ayvalioglu (1981)
Aim: To investigate the rate of helping in differing sized
Method: A stranger asked for help in a large city, suburb,
small town, and squatter community in Turkey.
Small towns & squatter communities helped the most.
Large Cities helped much less
Suburbs helped the least
Conclusion: Small communities are more willing to help.
Also, economic factors may play a role in shaping this