Chapter 14: Prosocial behavior in society (pp. 545–548)
- Is help always experienced in a positive way?
- Are there gender differences in the way we experience help?
- How can we promote prosocial behavior?
In this topic
- Help That Helps; Help That Hurts (pp. 545–546)
- Increasing Prosocial Behavior in Society (pp. 546–548)
Help That Helps; Help That Hurts
Help is experienced in a positive way when the help is aimed to relieve physical suffering, or when it creates a positive relationship between helper and helped, and this kind of help leads to positive feelings for both the helper (pride) and the helped (gratitude).
Help is experienced in a negative way when the person being helped is not able to do something back for the helper, or when the person being helped feels less capable or competent.
Fisher et al. (1982) distinguish between the self-supportive aspect of help, which leads to feelings of gratitude, and the self-threatening aspect of help, which leads to feelings of dislike.
Men experience asking for help as threatening to their status, while women experience asking for help as an opportunity for positive relationships.
Increasing Prosocial Behavior in Society
Ways to make help more likely include:
- Reducing ambiguity: Making the need for help more clear.
- Increasing internal attributions for prosocial behavior: If the cause of helping is internal, the chance for subsequent prosocial behavior increases.
- Teaching norms that support prosocial behavior in school, and showing personal examples or models.
- Activating prosocial norms: By directing attention to (norms of) helping behavior, or by making people self-aware, which leads to more helping behavior.
- Infusing, not diffusing, responsibility: Direct your request for help to a specific person.
- Promoting identification: Connectedness leads to more helping behavior.
So what does this mean?
Receiving help can have negative as well as positive consequences, especially if recipients cannot reciprocate because of an unequal power relationship between helper and helped, or because receiving help makes them look and feel less competent. Helping in society can be increased by making needs clear, teaching and activating helping norms, fostering helpful self-concepts, focusing rather than diffusing responsibility, and promoting connectedness to engender empathy, altruism, and group identification.