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Social Psychology


Angeetha Krishnan
What is a helping behaviour
The helping behaviour is a concept in social psychology which believes that a
person voluntarily gives assistance to others, without regard as to whether a
reward is expected in return or not.
There are two factors that affect helping behaviour
• Internal factors
• External factors

Internal factors are characteristics within a person that influence their

behaviour. In prosocial behaviour when referring to internal factors, we are
looking into personality traits that either enhance or inhibit helping.

While looking into why or why not people help based on inner attributes,
altruism and ego centrism often come up.

People either help for the benefit of themselves, egocentrism or solely for the
benefit of others, known as altruism.

Evolutionary Theory – The Kin selection model

Given that evolution supports natural selection, one would perform behaviours to
increase their chances of surviving. An example of this can be seen in a family of
hunters who help each other – if they share their resources and food with one
another, the chances that they will survive and reproduce is greater than a family
who does otherwise.

The Norm of Reciprocity

The idea of reciprocity states that a person helps because he expects to be helped in
return. Furthermore, it also states that a person who has been helped previously,
would feel indebted to help back those who helped them.
Arousal: Cost Reward Theory
According to this theory, the presence of an emergency situation elicits emotional
arousal in bystanders. This feeling of arousal may be fear, anxiety or sympathy.
When a bystander starts to feel as such, he becomes upset and extends help to the
situation to relieve such feelings. The heavier the need, the more emotionally
straining it is, therefore increasing the likelihood of wanting to help.

This theory suggests that the helping behaviour is driven by the need to relieve
oneself from the emotional arousal brought about by situations in which help is

As humans, we all deal with a great variety of emotions that can affect many aspects
of our lives. One of these aspects is the likelihood that we would engage in helpful
behavior. Emotions could have to do with both internal and external factors due to
the fact that some emotions are brought out based on the external factors. On a daily
basis we can differentiate emotional reactions to external events from reactions we
have based on internal attributes. For example, a friend being mad at you is an
external factor, but how you react to that is based on the type of person you are.
Positive emotions
Often times people are willing to help when they are in positive moods. Even finding
a small amount of change is enough to affect a person's mood and motivate them to
help someone in need.
But when someone is in an extremely positive mood they don't want to engage in
unpleasant things and tend to ignore the person in need. People who are in a
negative mood and are focused on their own problems are less likely to help. But like
positive emotions, the negative state of mind could also push people to engage in
prosocial behavior in order to feel better.
Empathy-Altruism Theory
Altruism is the idea of helping others without expecting anything in return.
Empathy, on the other hand, is the ability of a person to place oneself in
another’s shoes to understand what the other is feeling. This theory
combines the idea of both – when one feels empathic towards another, he
feels the need to help and relieve them of their suffering.

This theory revolves around ‘empathic concern,’ which are emotions felt by
a person when he sees somebody in need. The person’s priority now
centers around the other person’s needs and relieving them, instead of
focusing on his own.

The Norm of Social Responsibility

Social responsibility is a feeling that a person has an obligation to act in
such a way that benefits the whole society. With this, a person has a duty
to fulfil to maintain the balance in his environment. A person may do this
actively, for example donating money to government NGO’s, or passively,
such as ensuring that he commits no harm to others with his deeds.