Chapter

Altruism and Prosocial Behavior

Personality and Social Psychology

II. SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY

  1. Mark Snyder PhD1,
  2. Patrick C. Dwyer PhD2

Published Online: 26 SEP 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118133880.hop205022

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

How to Cite

Snyder, M. and Dwyer, P. C. 2012. Altruism and Prosocial Behavior. Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition. 5:II:22.

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of Minnesota, Department of Psychology, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

  2. 2

    University of Minnesota, Department of Psychology, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 SEP 2012

Abstract

The psychological study of prosocial behavior covers a wide range of actions that people perform to benefit other persons or groups. Although instances of interpersonal (i.e., one-to-one) helping, in which one person provides assistance to another, have dominated investigations into prosocial behavior for many years, theory and research has since broadened from this initial focus to consider collective forms of prosocial behavior (e.g., volunteerism and participation in social movements) and the dynamics of cooperation within and between collectives. Investigators have sought to understand what leads people to engage in these behaviors, identifying sources of prosocial motivation that are internal (such as personal needs and drives) and external (such as situational demands and social norms). We review theory and research seeking to understand diverse sources of prosocial motivation across three distinct categories of prosocial behavior: interpersonal prosocial behavior, collective prosocial behavior, and cooperation within and between collectives.

Keywords:

  • altruism;
  • cooperation;
  • helping;
  • prosocial behavior;
  • prosocial motivation