Social Psychology

Student Learning Program

Chapter 14: Helping and cooperation (pp. 517550)

What's it about?

Prosocial behavior can take different forms: Altruism is helping motivated by the desire to benefit others for their own sake, while helping driven by personal rewards to the helper is termed egoism. Offering help is crucially dependent on people's perception of someone as both needing and deserving help. Whether people really help depends on the behavior of others, social norms, and own standards. Help may be motivated by perceived rewards for the helper, or deterred by perceived costs or risks. These rewards and risks can be emotional: People sometimes help to alleviate their own distress at the victim's suffering, reflecting egoism. People are often motivated by a feeling of empathy to relieve another's suffering, reflecting altruism.

In a social dilemma, rewards for each individual are in direct conflict with what is best for the group. Group identification promotes cooperative behavior. When helping is a considered decision, it can result in a long-term commitment. Personality factors related to prosocial behavior include differences in empathy and in self-efficacy. Receiving help can have positive, but also negative, consequences, especially if recipients cannot reciprocate, or because receiving help makes you 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.

In this chapter

  1. Chapter 14 introduction
  2. When do people help?
  3. Why do people help? Helping for mastery and connectedness
  4. Role of superficial or systematic processing in helping and cooperation
  5. Prosocial behavior in society
  6. Chapter overview (PDF)
  7. Fill-in-the-blanks
  8. Multiple-choice questions