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Multilevel Approach to Study of Helping Behavior Can Facilitate Better Understanding

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  • Ian Pitchford
    Multilevel Approach to Study of Helping Behavior Can Facilitate Better Understanding Libraries Life News (Social and Behavioral Sciences) Keywords SCHROEDER
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 28 1:28 PM
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      Multilevel Approach to Study of Helping Behavior Can Facilitate
      Better Understanding
      Libraries
      Life News (Social and Behavioral Sciences) Keywords
      SCHROEDER AR PSYCHOLOGY PROSOCIAL HELPING PANNIER DOVIDIO
      PILIAVIN

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      Description

      A multilevel perspective may be the key to a more comprehensive
      understanding of the broad subject of helpful behavior and what
      motivates people to act helpfully in different types of
      situations, according to a University of Arkansas professor of
      psychology, and his colleagues.

      Newswise — Would you help a stranded motorist on the side of a
      busy highway? Would you contribute to a relief fund for the
      tsunami victims? Would you work with your colleagues to complete
      an important project? A multilevel perspective may be the key to
      a more comprehensive understanding of the broad subject of
      helpful behavior and what motivates people to act helpfully in
      different types of situations, according to David A. Schroeder,
      a University of Arkansas professor of psychology, and his
      colleagues.

      Schroeder’s research paper, “Prosocial Behavior: Multilevel
      Perspectives,” is one of the pieces featured in this year’s
      Annual Review of Psychology. He was joined by three other
      researchers from around the country: Louis A. Pannier of the
      Karmanos Cancer Institute and the department of Family Medicine,
      Wayne State University, Detroit, and the Research Center for
      Group Dynamics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; John
      F. Dovidio of the University of Connecticut psychology
      department; and Jane A. Piliavin of the University of Wisconsin,
      Madison, sociology department.

      The researchers identified three levels of analysis of the
      domain of prosocial, or helping, behavior. Studying the
      evolutionary processes and personality differences that
      determine whether a person will act helpfully are factors
      operating at the micro level. Studying the relationship between
      helpers and those in need and the situational context in which
      help might be given is seen as investigation at the meso level
      of analysis. Prosocial actions such a volunteering or
      cooperation that occur within the context of groups and large
      organizations are at the macro level. Identifying the common as
      well as the unique factors that affect helping behavior across
      these levels can provide new ways of understanding why people
      act in ways that benefit others.

      According to Schroeder, significant research has been done at
      the level of helping behavior and bystander intervention, but
      much less work has been done with regard to reasons why people
      show concern for others and what factors bring people together
      for some common good.

      “It’s as if everybody was looking at the interpersonal trees of
      helping instead of trying to see the bigger forest of prosocial
      behavior,” Schroeder said.

      The researchers advocate a broader understanding of helping
      behavior by focusing more attention on the causes of helpful
      actions. The factors that often lead to helping, such as
      personality differences, egoistic and altruistic motives,
      cost-reward calculations, and responsiveness to situational
      demands, are not always consciously accessible. Studying
      implicit cognitive processes that immediately precede social
      behaviors may help in developing a more comprehensive
      understanding of when and why people do or do not act helpfully.

      Though research has shown that in some cases, humans can be
      purely altruistic, Schroeder said, most helping is done for
      egoistic reasons.

      “So why do people help? In some cases it is because they don’t
      want to hear people screaming and crying anymore,” he said.
      “Most of us help others because it makes us feel better, or to
      avoid feeling bad, or for the external rewards, such as praise
      or tokens of appreciation.”

      The researchers also suggest that helping, cooperation and
      volunteering should be considered as parts of a spectrum of
      helping behavior, rather than thinking about these actions as
      separate and distinct forms of social behavior.

      Studies of organizational citizenship, volunteerism and ways to
      promote cooperation can benefit people in nonprofit
      organizations, management positions and business settings.

      “We need to look at the social dilemmas people must face:
      ‘Should I do something just for me or something that will help
      my entire group?’” Schroeder said. “If I back off and let others
      do the work, we call that free riding.”

      An example, he pointed out, would be listening to National
      Public Radio every day, but not contributing under the
      assumption that other members of the public will contribute.

      The researchers recommended that future research investigate the
      contribution of helping action to ongoing interpersonal and
      intergroup relations – for example, as integral components of
      forgiveness, key elements of reconciliation and a means to
      reduce prejudice and discrimination.

      Schroeder and the three other researchers have been meeting
      regularly for more than 20 years, two or three times annually to
      tackle psychological questions, and feeding off of each others’
      unique experiences to turn out research papers or books. About
      10 years ago, they published “The Psychology of Helping and
      Altruism: Problems and Puzzles.” Later this year they hope to
      see their second book published, “Prosocial Behavior: Helping,
      Volunteering and Cooperation.” The new book is based on this
      research and will build and expand on their new multilevel
      framework.

      http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/511396/

      =========
      Ian Pitchford PhD CBiol MIBiol
      http://human-nature.com/ep/
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