SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

Prosocial behavior accentuates the tension between two conflicting human motivations, self-interest and belongingness. Responding to the needs of others may compromise self-interest. Acting callously, however, may lead to social disproval. These antagonistic responses are existentially meaningful as belongingness and self-esteem have been found to regulate death anxiety. In this paper I critically examine three possible hypotheses concerning the tension between egotism and prosociality from a terror management perspective. The first hypothesis, the carpe diem hypothesis, suggests that when death is salient egotistic self-interest overrides other-oriented responses. The second hypothesis, the norm salience hypothesis, suggests that when death is salient people will respond according to the momentarily accessible social norm. The third hypothesis, the self-protective altruism hypothesis, argues that when the prosocial cause reminds people of their fragile, mortal nature people will turn away from helping when death is salient, but when the prosocial cause is benign death salience will increase prosocial responding.