Psychology-Pro Social Behaviour

Topics: Altruism, Psychology, Sociology Pages: 5 (1656 words) Published: February 17, 2013
Psychology Essay 1

Title: Pro social Behaviour Selfless or Selfish. Discuss with reference to social psychology.

Pro Social Behaviour-selfless or selfish
My assignment is based on the discussion of pro social behaviour through social psychology findings and whether it’s thought to be selfish, selfless or both. Pro social behaviour refers to "voluntary actions that are intended to help or benefit another individual or group of individuals" (Eisenberg and Mussen 1989, 3). These behaviours include a broad range of activities such as sharing, comforting, rescuing, and helping. Pro social behaviour is helping someone with no thought of reward or compensation. In this discussion I will argue that there are cases of selfish and selfless pro social behaviour. The literature suggests that pro social behaviour has only been researched since the 1970’s. Social scientists started using the term as an antonym for anti social behaviour. A person who doesn’t expect recognition for helping someone is seen to be doing a selfless act. A simple example of this would be if a person witnessed a car accident, an impulsive reaction would be to run and help. The person doesn’t stop to think what they would benefit from assisting so therefore this act can be considered selfless pro social behaviour. Another example would be a person donating money to a charity anonymously, if no one knows who donated the money then the person is getting no gratitude for it. However one could argue that there is a small degree of selfishness involved as the person may feel some self gratitude. It can also be argued that some charities have employees who are paid on commission, being paid for the ‘harder’ they work. Therefore they are benefiting financially (reward / compensation) despite carrying out these kind acts. Is the help performed in these tasks motivated by the prospect of some benefit for ourselves, however subtle? This draws the discussion of Pro Social behaviour, Selfless or Selfish? According to the theory of universal egoism, people are fundamentally selfish and altruism is impossible – altruism is defined as the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others (opposed to egoism) (www.dictionary.refrence .com/browse/altruism). Pro social behaviour can be confused with altruism, they are, in fact, too distinct concepts. Pro social behaviour refers to a pattern of activity, whereas, altruism is the motivation to help others out of pure regard for their needs rather than how the action will benefit oneself. This has been and still is the dominant ethos in social science, including psychology. Similarly, sociobiologists consider acts of apparent altruism to be acts of selfishness in disguise. Mc Dougall (1908) proposed that sympathetic instincts are responsible for altruistic acts. Only about twenty psychological studies of helping were

published before 1962 but the murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964 opened up the flood gates of research into bystander intervention and altruism (Schroeder et al., 1995). The Kitty Genovese murder also introduced the concept of the unresponsive bystander to denote people’s typically uncaring attitude towards others in need of their help. It is thought remarkable that out of thirty eight witnesses not a single one did anything to help. These findings make me question for an individual to intervene in an emergency what factors or influences are involved. As previously mentioned altruism acts are described as carrying out a non reward act like helping someone who has been knocked down. Is this because of an individual’s good nature or is it because nobody else is there to help? In the Genovese case did the presence of others determine nobody else stepping forward? I can further discuss the blend of altruistic and self interested motivations. Egoism, seen as extreme self interest, occurs when self importance or a need to feed one’s own image is the motivator. An example of this is...
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