Can Prosocial Behaviour Play a Part in Resolving Terrorism?

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Terrorist acts are centuries old, however modern terrorism has a global and much more destructive impact involving many innocent bystanders. Many strategies and preventative measures have been put in place to try and prevent terrorist acts nevertheless these are limited in their success. It is unlikely that terrorism can be totally eradicated, however it has been shown that prosocial behaviour and acts of altruism increase during and immediately after a terrorist attack. Therefore it could be feasible that encouraging prosocial behaviour and empathy between people of different races and religions could decrease and possible prevent some acts of terrorism. Prosocial behaviour has been described as ‘any act performed with the goal of benefiting another person.’ (Penner, Dovidio, Piliavan & Schroeder, 2005), and there have been different proposals as to the origins of this behaviour. From a evolutionary point of view ‘kin selection’ and ‘norm of reciprocity’ propose that by helping genetic relatives genes will be passed on through natural selection and that by helping others it can be expected that they will return the favour in the future. Also, it has been proposed that by learning social norms it increases the chances of survival. (Simon, 1990, as cited by Aronson et al. 2007). The social exchange theory does not assume an evolutionary basis. It argues that people in relationships will try to make the most of the relation between social rewards and social costs. The final theory as to why people help is the ‘empathy-altruism hypothesis’ (Aronson et al. 2007). This argues that when people feel empathy towards another they will try to help that person even if there is a cost to themselves and regardless of any gains that might be made. It has also been considered as to why some people help more than others. Explanations have come in the form of individual, gender and cultural differences. Also mood has been considered as having an effect on prosocial behaviour....
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