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Journal Article

Why we share our cookies: Prosocial behavior from a psychological perspective


Böckler,  Anne
Julius Maximilian University, Würzburg, Germany;
Research Group Social Stress and Family Health, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Böckler, A. (2019). Why we share our cookies: Prosocial behavior from a psychological perspective. Anthropologischer Anzeiger, 76(3), 181-194. doi:10.1127/anthranz/2019/0880.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-E7EE-C
In order to accomplish the benefits and overcome the difficulties associated with group living, societies critically depend on prosocial behaviors of their members. With various disciplines exploring the preconditions and constraints of altruism and cooperation, psychological research is concerned with the motivations that underlie human prosociality. The present paper summarizes the respective literature, starting out with an overview of the measures most commonly employed to assess prosocial tendencies in the laboratory. In short, psychologists make use of (i) questionnaires in which people rate their own traits, attitudes and behaviors, employ (ii) game theoretical paradigms that aim to enhance objectivity by means of anonymity and real monetary earnings and observe (iii) behavior in controlled, but realistically complex environments. The subsequent section addresses the issue how these measures can be structured and summarizes results of a recent study that categorized the various measurement methods. Specifically, the authors propose a framework of human prosociality that assumes three distinct motivation-based sub-components: Altruistically motivated prosocial behavior reflecting the genuine aim to enhance others’ well-being, norm motivated prosocial behavior referring to the tendency to enforce social norms and self-reported prosocial behavior as the inclination to perceive and describe oneself as a good person. The third section outlines situational and personal factors that influence prosocial behavior, specifically focusing on socio-affective and socio-cognitive facets. This part demonstrates that the proposed sub-components of prosocial behavior are differentially related to some of the personal moderators, for instance to gender, cognitive skills, trait affect and narcissism, which corroborates the framework of distinct aspects of prosociality. Finally, I briefly summarize attempts to enhance prosocial behavior by altering its situational, biological or personal preconditions. The influence of meditation-based trainings has received increasing attention during the last decade, and differential effects of these interventions on the facets of prosociality further support the idea that distinct motivations drive the different behavioral tendencies.