Society relies immensely on communication and cooperation, and while each country and culture has a different attitude toward these interpersonal relationships, morality, respect, and support are vital parts of any community. In this sense, positive connections and interactions and the promotion of social integration depend on prosocial behavior, a key element of moral conduct (Ding et al., 2018). Prosocial behavior, which includes providing assistance, cooperating, offering consolation, contributing, and making donations, was described as an activity that benefits others (Ding et al., 2018). Altruism represents the most prominent kind of prosocial behavior since it involves incurring an effort to assist another individual without any hope or anticipation of reward (Ding et al., 2018). While many might refer to prosocial behavior as benevolent actions toward strangers, in reality, it can be aimed at helping or supporting any individual. Any action taken with the intention of assisting another individual or group of people is, therefore, considered prosocial conduct and can be reinforced.
Importance of Prosocial Behavior
Prosocial behavior plays a vital role in the life of any person due to natural inclinations to rely on support systems. However, these kinds of attitudes and behaviors might be limited, making them less frequent. For example, physical isolation and other COVID-19 restrictions drastically interrupted regular social connections and exacerbated isolation and loneliness, which stands in contrast to people’s inherently social nature. There were fewer opportunities to help others because of the lack of social contacts and the emergence of sentiments of dread, uncertainty, and tension. This lead to self-centered anxiety and contempt for others (Haller et al., 2021). In fact, the epidemic and accompanying behaviors were shown to cause a variety of responses that may be classified as egocentric or antisocial (Haller et al., 2021). However, with more exposure to positive role models, the involvement of many other individuals in social life and prosocial behavior might be increased.
Motivation for Prosocial Behavior
When someone acts in a prosocial way, their intention is to meet the needs of others. Prosocial behavior does not imply any hidden expectations or desires to receive something in return. The motivation for such behavior is to help individuals meet their basic needs. On average, there are three types of needs that humans have. The first need is an instrumental need, which occurs when a person has issues achieving an objective by themselves (Ding et al., 2018). Then, there are unfulfilled needs, which happen if a person lacks access to a necessary resource (Ding et al., 2018). Lastly, there is another category, which is mental discomfort that includes loneliness or sadness (Ding et al., 2018). Prosocial conduct involves creating conditions that will allow the benefactor to give comfort, share resources, and assist others in achieving their goals. In my personal case, my motivation for the prosocial behavior project was not only to assist others but encourage similar reactions in others since, as seen from the example with COVID-19, pandemics decreased the prevalence of prosocial behavior instances.
The first part of my prosocial behavior project involved helping a person. The individual of choice was my brother, and the area of help involved helping him with his astronomy project. The project included such tasks as creating planets of the solar system and attaching them to transparent sticks on the board, where the installation had to look as if the planets were floating. My brother had anxiety regarding the planning, organization, and creation of the installation, and my immediate response to this was to help him and navigate him through the process. Though he did not request help, it was my decision. I had plans for this day, and yet, seeing my brother struggle, I decided to support him. Together, we assembled the board with transparent sticks and created the planets in under six hours since I insisted that we pay attention to detail, knowing that my brother was a perfectionist.
When it comes to the impact on personal behavior, I believe that throughout the process of constructing the astronomy installation, I experienced elevated stress levels. The reasons behind this were that I felt personal responsibility for the success of my brother, and I worried about what he was thinking. At times, he had outbursts of aggression when something did not go as planned or took more time. However, I comforted him and offered him to take breaks. I think that this experience was positive since together we were able to create something together. I had an opportunity to learn more details about my brother’s school experiences and aspirations. Overall, I felt proud that I decided to offer assistance to my family member. I do not interact with him as much as I used to due to my busy assignments and work. However, this situation allowed me to feel important in his life.
As for my brother’s perspective, he did not expect me to offer help but gladly accepted it. With my assistance, he became more encouraged since he would need less time to make the installation and receive help with the organization of the project and its implementation. The experience had a positive impact on him for the day. He shared his experience with his parents and his friends later, accentuating that he had a support system. During the implementation of the project, his stress levels immensely decreased. Though at times he became nervous, the comfort that he received changed his mood again. The perceived levels of aggression decreased as he heard comforting, encouraging, and motivating words. Overall, the prosocial behavior addressed by this person had a positive effect on him since it inspired him to act in a similar way, expressing his desire to help his schoolmates as well.
Another part of my prosocial behavior project involved sharing with others. One of my favorite pastime activities is cooking, especially baking. It helps me with concentration and a reduction of stress levels. One day I was baking a cheesecake, and it often happens that I make bigger portions. I thought of bringing slices of cake to my workplace to share with my coworkers. I brought the cake the next day and offered everyone a piece during the coffee break. It was not a frequent situation when homemade food was brought into the office.
The impact on personal behavior was immense and positive since I received much pleasure from sharing the food I made myself and received feedback for such an action, which served as a positive reinforcement for me. At first, there, I felt stressed since I did not know how they would react to the offer and whether they would enjoy the cake. However, after receiving positive comments and gratitude, I became more enthusiastic. This experience had an impact not only on the outlook for the day but on our interactions with other members of the team. This situation made me more motivated to share baked goods with others due to the happiness it brings from seeing people being appreciative of this action. Second, this made me closer to the team since, during this coffee break, we had a quality conversation.
Sharing food with the team had a profound impact on their behaviors. Many of my colleagues admitted that they had not eaten homemade food or baked goods for a long time, and they enjoyed this experience. During working hours, people in the office usually seem stressed and preoccupied with tasks and issues. However, after the coffee break, when everybody interacted while eating the cake, their level of stress was reduced significantly. Their outlook for the day changed, and they felt more encouraged to work after spending quality time with others. It was additionally offered to bring homemade goods each week. As a result, the sharing part of the project contributed not only to the personal enjoyment of the process but the bonding of the whole group.
The last part of my prosocial behavior project involved donating. While being at a local coffee shop with my uncle, I saw him making a donation to the waiters for their hard work. The man put $10 into a jar that was barely filled with any money. Such behavior and the benevolent deed of my family member inspired me to follow the same behavior and donate as well. Considering that I have a job and no financial struggles, I decided to make a donation that would not be a burden to me and donated $20. I come to this coffee shop regularly, and in view of the small pay of the waiters and their efforts, I believed this was a supportive gesture.
When it comes to the impact on personal behavior, I believe it made me feel proud and appreciative of the hard work of the coffee shop employees. Being a hard worker, I showed respect for their efforts to be constantly friendly and considerate. This experience had a positive on my outlook for the day. The situation reduced my stress level and gave me an outburst of serotonin, making me happier. This day I was eager to do more good and altruistic deeds for others who needed help and support. I think that the donation part of the project changed my perspective on the support of others. Through this experience, I was able to understand that while I might be in no need of a small sum of money, others might benefit immensely from it.
As for the impact on the behaviors of others, it can be considered positive. I talked to my uncle, who inspired me with his actions to make a donation. His response as to the reason why he did such a deed was, “Because my daughter is a waitress, and I know how it can be hard for her. I’m just trying to spread kindness and gratitude for their hard work, and I’m happy to know that somebody followed my example!” As a result, such a situation and conversation made him satisfied. A similar situation was with the waiters, they expressed their gratitude for the donations, and one of them mentioned that some donations even helped her with rent.
The Kin Selection Theory
The kin selection concept claims that helping genetically related people is more frequent than helping friends or random people. This theory is usually explained through the perspective of survival since helping those who have similar genes ensures that this DNA is preserved or added to the genetic pool (Fiske, 2018). Throughout my experiences and parts of the project, I could see the correlation between choosing to help relatives or immediate family rather than strangers. For example, the first individual I helped was my brother. In turn, when asking my relative while in a local coffee shop about the reasons behind donating to the waiters’ fund, he replied that because his daughter was a waitress, he felt more comfortable supporting people who share the same occupation as her. In this sense, the altruistic actions of the participants in the project were mostly connected to people who were in close relationships with the benefactors.
The Social Learning Theory
Another theory that was connected to the experiences in prosocial behavior is social learning theory. Bandura first proposed the idea that human behavior may be modeled (Fiske, 2018). In a film that was shown to three different groups of students, an adult was seen acting violently against a doll and either managed to escape criticism, received praise from another adult, or received punishment (Fiske, 2018). Students were shown to be more inclined to replicate an adult’s conduct if they had witnessed the adult being praised (Fiske, 2018). In the given project, the social learning theory can be applied to two scenarios. The first scenario involves me and my brother, who, after receiving help and support from me, was eager to replicate the same behavior toward others, such as his friends and schoolmates. In turn, from personal experience, I saw my uncle donating to the waiter’s fund, and I felt the need to follow his example. In this sense, people tend to replicate the behaviors once they are praised for it or see a role model performing such deeds.
Hence, prosocial behavior, a crucial facet of moral conduct, is essential to fostering relationships, interactions, and social integration. It has been demonstrated that the pandemic and its associated behaviors lead to a range of behaviors that may be categorized as egocentric or antisocial. Nevertheless, the participation of many other people in social life and prosocial behavior may improve with more exposure to positive role models. In the given project, I practiced three different prosocial behaviors, including helping, sharing, and donating. In the first scenario, I helped my brother build an installation for the astronomy project. In the second scenario, I shared the baked cheesecake with my coworkers. In the last scenario, I donated to the waiters’ fund at a local coffee shop. All three situations created positive reinforcements and had a good influence on my behavior and the behavior of recipients. This prosocial behavior can be additionally explained through two theories, such as the kin selection theory and social learning theory, that give insights into the impact of role models and a preference to help family first.
Ding, W., Shao, Y., Sun, B., Xie, R., Li, W., & Wang, X. (2018). How can prosocial behavior be motivated? The different roles of moral judgment, moral elevation, and moral identity among the young Chinese. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(814), 1-10.
Fiske, S. T. (2018). Social beings: Core motives in social psychology. Wiley.
Haller, E., Lubenko, J., Presti, G., Squatrito, V., Constantinou, M., Nicolaou, C.,… & Gloster, A. T. (2021). To help or not to help? Prosocial behavior, its association with well-being, and predictors of prosocial behavior during the coronavirus disease pandemic. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 1-14.