What is the difference between prosocial behaviour and altruism? Does genuine altruism exist? Discuss in relation to social psychological aspects of evolutionary theory and related research.
Word Count: 1472
Prosocial and altruistic behaviours are both behaviours that serve for the good of others and society. However, research has shown that there are important differences between the two types of behaviours. The purpose of this paper is to distinguish between prosocial behaviour and altruism, as well as discussing whether or not genuine altruism exists. Following this discussion, a brief conclusion will be made in relation to whether the research agrees or disagrees with the concept of altruism.
Prosocial behaviour is any behaviour that serves for the good of others or society as a whole (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008). The purpose of this behaviour is to build positive relationships in society. This can be done by conforming to society’s norms. Baumeister & Bushman (2008) state that norms are types of behaviours that are expected by society. Wiessner (2005) studied 308 phone conversations between Ju/’hoansi Bushmen. He found that their group grew stronger by punishing people who violated group norms. Therefore, norms can be strengthened by either punishment or reward. Reciprocity is the moral obligation to return in kind what another has done (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008), and is a strong motivation to behave prosocially. According to Buss as cited in Baumeister & Bushman (2008), an individual’s ability to reproduce is dependent on his or her position within the group. The position within a group is usually determined by the amount or the extent of prosocial behaviours performed toward the group. Therefore, prosocial behaviour can be just as beneficial for the helper as it is for another or for the rest of society.
Altruism or altruistic behaviour is different from prosocial behaviour in the way that it is non-beneficial or disadvantageous to the...