In this essay we will discuss what defines behaviour/ helping behaviour, the social, environmental and biological influences that affect a person’s behaviour, pro-social behaviour, and the different factors that impede helping behaviour. Also Latané and Darley’s 1968 – 1980 experiments and studies that were conducted to understand human behaviour will be discussed, as well as the Kitty Genovese incident, in order to research into why help was not shown when there were so many people around.
Behaviour can be defined as the actions or reactions of an object or organism, usually in relation to the environment. Behaviour can happen consciously or subconsciously, overt or covert, and can also be voluntary or involuntary to humans. Human behaviour can be common, unusual, acceptable or unacceptable. Helping behaviour refers to voluntary actions intended to help others. It is a subcategory of pro-social behaviour; intentional act that helps or benefits another individual or group of individuals. This can be demonstrated by sharing, comforting, rescuing and helping. Altruistic behaviour is a subcategory of helping behaviour, which refers to pro-social behaviour that is carried out with the desire to benefit another without expectation of obtaining external or internal reward. According to the theory of universal egoism, people are fundamentally selfish and altruism is an impossibility, (Dovidio 1995, as cited in Gross 2001.) However certain kinds of casual helping (McGuire, 1994) or low-cost altruism (Brown, 1986) seem to be fairly common, such as giving a stranger directions or telling them the time.
Pro-social behaviour can be defined as behaviour that has positive social consequences and contributes to the physical or psychological well being of another person. It is thought that Kin Selection is a genetic response to supporting the broader gene pool. Social conditioning can also have been a cause and pro-social parents lead to pro-social children. The reciprocity norm is when help is given to those who have given help to us in the past or where people help others, knowing that one day they may want someone to help them in the same unselfish way. This can affect people’s way of helping others. As well as the social exchange theory where human interactions are transactions that aim to maximize one’s reward and minimize one’s cost. Also the social responsibility norm is when we should help others who really need it, without regard to future exchanges. It must be remembered that a person’s mood influences whether they would help a person in need. People who are in a good mood are more likely to do good, compared with people who are feeling guilty. But – if helping is likely to spoil our good mood, we might not help (Isen, 1984.) Although if the bad mood is guilt and helping can relieve that, we might help. Also people in small towns are more likely to help than those squashed together in cities. Humans estimate the suitability of behaviour using social norms and adjust behaviour by way of social control.
In biology, psychology and sociology, social behaviour is either behaviour directed towards society or taking place in between members of the same species. Social influences are considered the most likely factor for an individual to engage in helping behaviour. Social influences can be defined as the sum of all things that may change or affect a person’s behaviour, thoughts, feelings or actions. Studies on social influences might centre on ways in which behaviour of individuals or a whole group is influenced by outside factors, a person’s outlook or simply how they appear. An example of these influences was demonstrated by Piliavin et al, 1969, when student experimenters would pretend to collapse in a subway compartment. They would fall to the floor and wait to see if they’d be helped. There were two conditions; some would be carrying a cane (known as the...