Written by Makeela Wells
Prosocial behavior is essential for successful communication and relationships with others. It allows individuals to help, share, and understand others who are encountered in daily life. Prosocial behavior can be promoted through portrayals of altruistic behavior and imitating others who engage in such behavior (Wilson, 2008). However, when one is excluded from engaging with others, this can reduce prosocial behavior within that individual (Twenge, Baumeister, DeWall, Ciarocco, & Bartels, 2007). The goal of this blog is to define prosocial behavior, discuss how social exclusion decreases prosocial behavior in individuals, and examine the relationship between the media and prosocial behavior.
Defining Prosocial Behavior
Prosocial behavior can be defined as actions that are performed to help or benefit others (Twenge et al., 2007). Actions that are associated with prosocial behavior rarely have any direct benefit for those who are performing the act. These actions can include devoting time to helping others, volunteering, and assisting others in both emergency and non-emergency situations. Prosocial behavior also encourages cohesiveness in society and among individuals. Helping or sharing with others increases one’s own confidence and self-esteem (Twenge et al., 2007). Prosocial behavior also aids one in being able to interact and communicate with others.
How Does Exclusion Decrease Prosocial Behavior?
They may feel that others would not assist them if they needed help. Social exclusion also has the ability to impair the emotions that are needed, such as empathy, to push a person to want to help others (Twenge et al., 2007). In the end, it is imperative to include and make individuals feel socially accepted so that they may be more willing to selflessly assist others when needed.
Media and Prosocial Behavior
Often, research and data on media and behavior explore how violent television shows and movies promote aggression and antisocial behavior (Wilson, 2008). However, media, such as television and movies, also has the potential to promote prosocial behavior within individuals. Research shows that approximately 73% of television shows depict at least one act of prosocial behavior, including sharing or donating (Wilson, 2008). Those who viewed these types of shows saw roughly three acts of altruism in an hour (Wilson, 2008). Prosocial behaviors have been found to be depicted more on children networks, such as Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, and are less likely to be displayed on general audience channels, which are typically geared toward adults (Wilson, 2008). Television shows and movies that display individuals helping others increase the likelihood of prosocial behavior by individuals who view the media, but it also helps children and adolescents to develop empathy and sympathy for others who may experience a negative event or emotion (Wilson, 2008). Prosocial media also lead to positive social development, which is essential in adulthood (Wilson, 2008).
Additional references: Learn more about prosocial behavior and promoting prosocial behavior.
Twenge, J. M., Baumeister, R. F., DeWall, C. N., Ciarocco, N. J., & Bartels, J. M. (2007). Social Exclusion Decreases Prosocial Behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(1), 56-66.
Wilson, B.J. (2008). Media and Children’s Aggression, Fear, and Altruism. Future of Children, 18(1), 87-118.
Dr. H. Colleen Sinclair
Social Psychologist, Relationships Researcher,
Ms. Jessica Utley
Lab Manager of the Social Relations Collaborative and Blog Editor