Factors Which Influence Prosocial Behavior

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Factors Which Influence Prosocial Behavior

Cultural differences
There are great differences in when and how concern is shown for others among the many cultures of the world. Unfortunately, perhaps because of the inherent met_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _l difficulties, few psychological studies of altruism have been conformed cross-culturally. Anthropological research suggests that the emphasis put on altruism in Western societies is relatively rare in other parts of the world (Cohen, 1972) and appears to be the product of a love-oriented parent-child relationship and stable, monogamous marriages. The latter may be in the process of waning and, as the family becomes less and less effective as a socializer of children in North American society, we may be in danger of producing a generation of under-socialized children (Rushton, 1980).

Of the few studies that have been conformed, some have found subjects in the United States to be less willing to provide help; others have found the opposite. In research which compared the prosocial behavior of children in India, Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines, Japan, and the United States, children in the United States were the least helpful in terms of offering assistance or advice to others in distress (Whiting and Whiting, 1975). The authors of that study conformed that prosocial behavior is most evident among children who grow up in cultures where it is required of them - for example, in societies in which the typical family size is large and the child is required to share in the care and raising of other children and in managing the household.

Personality variables
As with any other behavior, individuals differ in the degree to which they exhibit prosocial behavior even though they have shared a common environment. Naturally, social psychologists have attempted to find personality correlates of altruism but the studies that have been done are not con_ _ _ _ _ _e. For example, subjects who help have been found to be more socially oriented and more "internal" in terms of locus-of-control than subjects who do not help (Krebs, 1970; Ubbink and Sadava, 1974).

Although some researchers feel that it is futile to seek general personality predictors of helping behavior (e.g., Gergen, Gergen and Meter, 1972), Rushton (1980, 1984) believes that the evidence is substantial enough to support the concept of a broadly-based altruistic trait. He argues that there is an "altruistic personality," which is associated with higher internalized standards of justice and responsibility, and with greater empathy, self-control, and integrity. However, much more evidence is required before the existence of such a personality pattern can be considered dem_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _e. In any case, the way in which a particular personality trait is manifested is likely to va_y with the situational con_ _ _t (Carlo, Eisenberg, Troyer, Switzer and Speer, 1991), so that an ind_ _ _ _ _ _l who acts prosocially in some situations (e.g., making donations to the United Appeal) may not do so in others (e.g., helping a drunk across a busy street).

Gen_ _r differences
As we have seen, empathy may play an important ro_e in prosocial behavior. There are, of course, ind_ _ _ _ _ _l differences in empathy; just as there are differences in the extent to which various situations elicit empathy (Archer et al., 1981). There may also be differences in empathy resulting from gen_ _r ro_ _s. Since women have been found to experience more vicarious, aff_ _ _ _ _e res_ _ _ _ _s than men, perhaps because men have been trained tra_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _y to suppress emotional dis_ _ _ _s (Hoffman, 1977), we might expect women to be more empathic. Yet, taking the evi_ _ _ _e as a whole, it is not clear whether or not genuine gen_ _r differences in empathy exist; females do describe themselves as being...
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