Prosocial behaviours Quips and Quotes We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give. Prosocial behaviours range from opening a door to volunteering to donating blood in times of emergency. Why, when and how do we act in an altruistic manner? Anonymous Lesson Objectives What does it mean, to act in a prosocial manner? What are the bases for prosocial behaviours? What influence does culture have on prosocial behaviour? What influence does gender have on prosocial behaviour? What influence does religious belief have on prosocial behaviour? How do we define heroism? What are the general characteristics of heroic people? Suggested Instructional Strategies Activity: Prosocial behaviours o Brainstorm opportunities for students to demonstrate prosocial behaviours in the classroom, school and community. o This aspect of the social psychology curriculum may be formalized with the inclusion of a prosocial action component that would be designed, conducted and assessed at the completion of the project. Discussion: Prosocial behaviours o Are there examples that the students could offer for kinds of prosocial behaviours that they have witnessed or performed? Research: Heroes o Construct an anthology of heroes. The website listed below is particularly useful. o Who are your heroes? o Invite students to share heroic deeds performed by members of their family. Media Study: “Let’s Roll” Direct Independent Interactive Indirect Experiential o Resources Listen to, and discuss, the lyrics to the song based on the final minutes of United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania after being highjacked on September 11 th. Media Study: The Terry Fox Story o View The Terry Fox Story and discuss: Was Terry Fox heroic? Why or why not? o Listen to the tribute to Terry Fox by Rod Stewart, a song entitled “Never Give Up On A Dream” on the album, Tonight I’m Yours (1981). Discussion: Adolescents and prosocial behaviours o Read the Interactions article entitled Brazilian Street Kids, and discuss the difference that adolescents can make in the world today. o What are some issues and challenges that adolescents can respond to in their own community? Website on cases of altruism Media Studies: The Terry Fox Story. Media: “Let’s Roll”, by Neil Young from the album, Are You Passionate? (2002). Interactions : Brazilian Street Kids: Reaching out to make a difference. Interactions : Dear Pat, “Inquisitive in Imperial.” Lesson 4.5.3: Teacher Information What does it mean, to act in a prosocial manner? Prosocial behaviour and altruism are synonyms used interchangeably to describe actions that are voluntarily carried out for the sole purpose of helping others, without expectation of reward from external sources (Alcock et al., 1998, p. 236). What are the bases for prosocial behaviours? “A born saint”, an inborn tendency: Some theorists argue that natural selection favours the genetic transmission of factors that predispose an organism to act prosocially towards other members of its species. The contention that prosocial behaviour has a genetic basis still lacks empirical verification. However, more general aspects of personality, such as anxiety-proneness, might be influenced by heredity and might, in turn, make prosocial behaviour more or less likely. “It’s what’s expected”, prosocial norms: Several norms of behaviour are relevant to prosocial behaviour: o The norm of reciprocity, which appears to be universal, requires that people help, and not harm, those who have helped them in the past. o The norm of social responsibility prescribes that people should help people who need help, regardless of whether they had helped the potential benefactors, or might reciprocate in the future. o The norm of equity specifies that fairness should serve as a criterion for the way that we treat others. “A good upbringing”, prosocial learning: The cognitive-developmental approach views prosocial behaviour as the consequence of values and attitudes shaped by the developing child's experience in the social environment. The social learning view, however, emphasizes the importance of modeling and reinforcement (See parenting styles for more information). “Feeling good about yourself”, prosocial mood: Do people like Norman Bethune and Mother Theresa help others because they already feel good? There is evidence that positive mood facilitates individual acts of charity or helping, while bad moods impede such behaviour. “Other people’s shoes”, prosocial empathy: Empathy with the suffering of others is a major factor in eliciting prosocial behaviour. Empathic arousal appears to be a universal human response, which is present to a degree even in one- and two-dayold infants, although it is modified by experience (Alcock et al., 1998, p. 237-244). Negative state relief hypothesis suggests that when we see a person in need of help, this creates negative feelings inside us and so to relieve these, we help this person (Baron et al., 1998, p. 688). Genetic determinism hypothesis states that we help others because doing so increases the likelihood that our genes – or ones similar to them – will be passed on to the next generation (Baron et al., 1998, p. 688). What influence does culture have on prosocial behaviour? Whiting and Whiting (1975) concluded that prosocial behaviour is most evident among children whose culture requires itfor example, where families are large and children help care for siblings and manage the household (Alcock et al., 1998, p. 245). What influence does gender have on prosocial behaviour? In general the research suggests that men help more often than women, although the findings are inconsistent. Moreover, social psychological research has typically focused on short-term interactions with strangers and has therefore largely ignored the very behaviours prescribed for the female gender rolebehaviours primarily manifest in close, long-term relationships (Alcock et al., 1998, p. 246). What influence does religious belief have on prosocial behaviour? Research suggests that while individuals who believe that helping others is a religious duty are more likely to volunteer help, simply being “religious” in itself does not correlate well with helping behaviours or compassion for those in need (Batson and Gray, 1981). Perhaps how one is religious is more important. For example, some religious people view religion as an end in itself, that is, they see their whole duty in life as ultimately to serve God. Others view being religious as a means of obtaining other goals, such as power and influence in the community. Still other religious people view their religion as an open-ended quest for meaning and understanding and ultimate values (Alcock et al., 1998, p. 247). How do we define heroism? While heroism is difficult to define because it is based on perception and attribution, most acts that are considered heroic involve intervention in the face of extraordinary personal risk (Alcock et al., 1998, p. 257). What are the general characteristics of heroic people? London (1970) found three common characteristics. First, rescuers showed a fondness for adventure and excitement, which was crucial to the initiation of the rescue work. Second, the rescuers tended to be socially deviant, and their social marginality provided the impetus and endurance necessary to carry out this rescue work. Third, and most important, the rescuers showed a strong identification with a very moralistic parent who had definite opinions on moral questions and who provided a model for moral conduct (Alcock et al., 1998, p. 259).