Essay Sample: The Economic Approach to Human Behavior

Published: 2017-11-08
Essay Sample: The Economic Approach to Human Behavior
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Psychology Economics Human behavior
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1468 words
13 min read

An economic approach to the behavior of individuals in the society emphasizes on the individual’s desire to gain rewards while overlooking costs. This would explain the nature of the prosocial behavior that is manifested in the rational behavior undertaken by humans at the social level. Different models have been established to describe the nature defined by when people help. The example in an emergency, potential helpers analyze the situation and attempt to outweigh the cost and rewards of choices, then come up with a decision that will dictate a probable outcome for them(Peter, 2013). The motivation towards prosocial behavior can be thereby argued to rely on an individual’s self-interest, which is driven by the result. But, why do others help and others do not? The example in the Bible, the parable of a Good Samaritan, gives an account of an individual in need, apparently giving examples the account explains how the individual got help from a foreign person having been ignored by a preacher and even people sharing similar ethnicity.

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Prosocial behavior psychology

Research has relied on the personality of the person in dictating whether the individual will help or not, however do some people help more than others? One cannot depend on an individual’s personality only to explain the reason behind exhibited prosocial behavior in different situations. A person may act prosaically in a given situation and deviate to act differently when faced with another situation. One would argue that a person’s prosocial behavior may not be predicted based on another prosocial situation. To understand the motivating factors behind an individual’s approach to helping other in situations, it is important to emphasize on analyzing the individual’s adherence of the situational pressure, the gender of the individual, culture, and their current mood. Situational pressure if the resultant nature of the situation that a person may find him or herself in, this would involve the setting of the case whether public or private, demanding or not or the society’s perception of such a situation. If the individual is tolerant of the pressure of the situation, he/she may help the other person (Baumeister, 2008). The example in the case of an emergency accident, the person will be faced with the situational pressure of getting the victims to a health center quickly; this is likely to probe the individual into helping the others. On the other hand, a case of a ball stuck on the tree may not retain much situational pressure, and rather it may present itself as a situation that does not need immediate attention causing the individual to help or walk away.

Gender disparities are a critical issue regarding motivation towards prosocial behavior; a person is likely to act in a certain way based on the type of situation and sex involved. In the case of a terrorist in the cockpit, an individual of the male sex is likely to charge in an attempt to help the other passengers on the airplane. Significantly, a neighbor who requires help with the house chores is likely to be in need of an individual of the female gender (Baumeister, 2008). Research does not emphasize on gender disparities but rather, attempts to elaborate on the cases that the difference in gender will influence the patterns of prosocial activity assumed by the individual. Culture is a set of values and beliefs that often explain a community’s way of life; research has stated that people may be motivated by the notion of culture towards helping others. It is undeniable that people who are related will engage in a prosocial activity, as stated earlier the level of attachment and emotions that an individual will have for the other will profoundly influence the person’s will to help. People are more willing to assist other individuals, who share a similar culture (in-group); a similar culture creates a collective identity presenting the individual with a sense of attachment.

Prosocial motivation

However, culture cannot be solely stated to be a motivating factor to prosocial behavior by an individual. The example in the case of the Good Samaritan, fellow people sharing the same culture as that of the victim ignored and walked away. Thereby prosocial behavior can be accorded with the levels of altruism present in a person’s personality. But it is important to understand that culture will influence motivation regarding prosocial behavior in different situations. A recent study conducted in over 23 countries on the levels of helping in regards to culture, exhibited varying levels of outcomes in each country (Mario Mikulincer, 2010). The study identified that more than fifteen countries had high levels of social motivation to prosocial behavior; the aspect of culture in prosocial behavior explains the line drawn between in group and outer group individuals. One would argue that a person will help another if he/she can identify the person to be belonging to their culture or not. A quick focus on culture identification brings to the attention of grooming and language. An individual of an independent culture will be identified to the culture regardless of the location or region of the situation, thereby to be helped by another person it is important that they view you as “one of them.”

An individual’s current mood is highly influential in determining whether the person will help or not. The feeling at that particular time defines the person’s state and perception of things, one would argue that a good mood is significant to set a do good situation while a bad mood takes away the will of the individual and focuses it on other things (Baumeister, 2008). Research conducted in different malls of San Francisco entailed placing dimes on the mall’s telephone for people to find, after finding the dimes the experiment used an individual to drop Manila papers and evaluate whether other people would help. At the end of the study, only 4 percent of the persons who did not get a dime helped pick up the manila papers, whereas 84percent of the people that got a dime contributed to picking the manila papers (R, 2002). In the case study, the dimes were supposed to elevate the mood of the people towards a real angel; this would refresh the individual’s attitudes to a true nature to assess whether a positive atmosphere is critical in prosocial behavior. From the experiment, it was accurate to state that a positive attitude is highly influential on an individual’s desire to help others. Significantly a bad mood is seen to reduce the levels of prosocial behavior that a person can exhibit. A bad mood does not allow a focus on the right side of individuals; rather a good mood directs out frustration and bad feelings surrounding the bad mood.

Prosocial moral reasoning

Research has gone further to explain a bad mood as a motivator to good. Research states that an individual in a bad mood may help another person out of the guilt feeling. When a person has done something that prompts the sense of guilt, he/she may help another person to reduce a feeling of guilt (Peter, 2013). Helping others tends to balance out the feeling of guilt, reducing it to lower levels than before engaging in the prosocial activity. Example, a church member, is likely to donate more before going to confession, than after confession. With the feeling of guilt, church goers may find helping as a means of balancing out guilt. Human behavior is dependent on society, according to sociological theories social psychologists argue that as far as the Agency makes the society, the society also makes the agency. An individual’s character traits or valued behavior is reflected by the society especially the society that individual has grown up in.

Apart from personal qualities, prosocial behavior is also influenced by situational determinants that highly motivate prosocial conduct by individuals. Situational determinants are factors that assess the situation of the social phenomena and motivate the individual either towards or against prosocial behavior, example, the Environment. In a case where an individual has fallen off a bicycle and broken a leg, people of a rural area show high levels of prosocial behavior, whereas individuals from an urban environment will exhibit low levels of prosocial behavior towards the racial incident(R, 2002). Note that the situational determinant does not identify the place of the event (urban or rural), as the motivating factor but rather the values adopted in the two societal settings. The people’s internalized values often describe the mode of behavior that people will assume in any given situation; similarly, it would be accurate to state that the surroundings of the position may also influence prosocial behavior from the other individuals.

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