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The Effect Of Personal Characteristics On Prosocial Behaviour

2106 words - 8 pages

The Effect of Personal Characteristics on Prosocial Behaviour

In this essay, it will be first looked at the effect personal
characteristics have on Prosocial behaviour including the level of
moral reasoning of individuals, vicarious emotional reactions,
altruism, guilt, self concern, the Just World hypothesis and also the
biological approach. Secondly it will be looked at how being part of a
group can effect an individuals Prosocial behaviour. Intra-group
factors that will be covered include the Bystander Effect, modelling
and norms. Finally, factors concerning immediate and larger context
will be covered.

Prosocial behaviour is an act by an individual or a group that is seen
as valued by society. There are many reasons for why or why not people
act in a prosocial way which can be looked at from different levels of
analysis. One situation for the potential of prosocial behaviour is a
man getting beaten up in a reasonably public place.

On a personal level of analysis one reason for why or why not someone
may help this man is to do with their level of intelligence. People
with higher intelligence would be better able to take another person’s
perspective and so more likely to help. Meta analyses have shown that
IQ test scores correlate positively although weakly with prosocial
behaviour (Hinde. A.R and Groebel. J. 1991). This suggests that
intelligence is an indirect factor of helping behaviour. Therefore
those with higher intelligence levels will have higher levels of moral
reasoning allowing them to evaluate a situation and decide whether or
not they are responsible for helping. Milgram conducted a study which
involved participants giving electric shocks to a ‘learner’ subject.
There were two conditions. One where the participant was told the
experiment was being run by a highly prestigious research organisation
and a control group that wasn’t. The results showed that those not in
the control group inflicted higher shocks to the learner subject
(Milgram, 1965 as cited in Macaulay. J. and Berkowitz. L. 1970). This
suggests that those who thought the experiment was being run by a
highly prestigious research organisation, using moral reasoning, took
less responsibility for their actions.

Another personal reason why an individual may help on a personal level
is due to vicarious emotional reactions. If someone sees someone else
who needs help it can cause feelings such as sympathy in the
individual motivating them to help. In reports from those who helped
rescue the Jews from the Nazis in Europe, nearly half mentioned
feelings of sympathy for their reason of helping (Hinde. A.R. and
Groebel. J. 1991). This links to the theory of altruism where people
help on a purely selfless basis and have no ulterior motive other than
to help those that need help. If someone walked past a man...

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