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Article

Physiological Measures of Wellness and Message Processing  

Kory Floyd, Corey A. Pavlich, and Dana R. Dinsmore

Research has shown that the expression of affection and other forms of prosocial communication between two or more people promotes wellness and has the potential to increase life expectancy. The human body contains multiple physiological subsystems that all contribute to the overall health and well-being of an individual; the simple act of engaging in prosocial communication has been shown to positively influence one’s health and well-being. The specific benefits of engaging in prosocial communication are not limited to one specific physiological subsystem; it is the pervasiveness of this benefit that is so important. The benefits of prosocial communication range from building the body’s defense systems to increasing the effectiveness of recovery; in essence, prosocial communication increases the body’s overall integrity and rejuvenating power. These benefits have been observed for a variety of prosocial behaviors, including the expression of affection, touch, social support and cohesion, and social influence. The health benefits of prosocial communication point to the importance of considering prosocial communication when designing health and risk messages.

Article

Public Service Motivation in Public Administration  

Wouter Vandenabeele and Carina Schott

Public service motivation (PSM) refers to an individual’s motivation to contribute to society. It relates to ideas about society, and about what public servants are and how they should behave, that have persisted for more than 2,500 years. Despite this heritage, PSM was only formally conceptualized in the 1990s. The concept of PSM has traditionally been linked to several beneficial outcomes, such as public performance and public servants’ satisfaction, but recently also to negative outcomes, such as burnout and rule-breaking. While PSM is an individual-level concept, the role of the social environment is crucial to understanding PSM. On the one hand, social institutions play an important role in creating individual-level PSM through socializing mechanisms. Institutions such as the family and workplace, and other structured value-based interaction patterns, correlate with the prevalence of individual PSM. On the other hand, to render outcomes, interaction with the environment—in terms of fit—is necessary, because PSM cannot exert influence outside a context where public values are prominent. As most research focuses on public servants in their work environment, this fit mostly entails a match of the individual public servant with the organization or the job. If this fit is lacking, little or no PSM occurs. Although PSM research was initially a theoretical and psychometric exercise, it is increasingly put to practical use.

Article

Violent Media Content and Effects  

Robert Busching, Johnie J. Allen, and Craig A. Anderson

In our modern age, electronic media usage is prevalent in almost every part of the world. People are more connected than ever before with easy access to highly portable devices (e.g., laptops, smartphones, and tablets) that allow for media consumption at any time of day. Unfortunately, the presence of violence in electronic media content is almost as prevalent as the media itself. Violence can be found in music, television shows, video games, and even YouTube videos. Content analyses have shown that nearly all media contain violence, irrespective of age rating (Linder & Gentile, 2009; Thompson & Haninger, 2001; Thompson, Tepichin, & Haninger, 2006; Yokota & Thompson, 2000). It is therefore important to ask: What are the consequences of pervasive exposure to screen violence? One consequence of media violence exposure, hotly debated by some in the general public, is increased aggressive behavior. This relationship was investigated in many studies using experimental, longitudinal, or cross-sectional design. These studies are summarized in meta-analyses, which support the notion that media violence increase the likelihood of acting aggressively. This link can be explained by an increase in aggressive thoughts, a more hostile perception of the environment, and less empathic reaction to victims of aggressive behavior. However, the often debated notion that media violence allows one to vent off steam, leading to a reduced likelihood of aggressive behavior, has failed to receive empirical support. The effect of media violence is not limited to aggressive behavior; as a consequence of violent media usage attentional problems arise and prosocial behavior decreases.

Article

Whistleblowing and Whistleblowers  

Niamh M. Brennan

Whistleblowing (also called good faith reporting, anonymous reporting, protected disclosure) is growing in importance as a corporate governance mechanism. It is increasingly recognized as a key internal control mechanism. Whistleblowing is a term used to describe an act whereby wrongdoing is exposed. It gained impetus following the collapse of Enron in 2001 arising from financial reporting fraud, which culminated in the U.S. Time magazine selecting three whistleblowers (all women) as its person of the year in 2002. The term was first used in 1966. Researchers have invoked a variety of theories and models attempting to explain whistleblowing. Elements that influence the process include the whistleblowers, the type of wrongdoing, the wrongdoers, the decision to blow the whistle, whistleblowing recipients, organizational factors, and finally the consequences of whistleblowing. Organizational processes, alternative to the more extreme step of whistleblowing, include silence (the other side of the coin to whistleblowing), speaking up, and open disclosure. An organizational response resisting an employee speaking up is the trigger that creates a whistleblower. The definition of whistleblowing only includes organizational members. Should it be extended to include external parties as well as organizational members? Social media has had an impact on whistleblowing. Questions remain as to the efficacy of whistleblowing: Is it a substantive or symbolic mechanism of governance?

Article

Empathy and Altruism  

Eric L. Stocks and David A. Lishner

The term empathy has been used as a label for a broad range of phenomena, including feeling what another person is feeling, understanding another person’s point of view, and imagining oneself in another person’s situation. However, perhaps the most widely researched phenomenon that goes by this label involves an other-oriented emotional state that is congruent with the perceived welfare of another person. The feelings associated with empathy include sympathy, tenderness, and warmth toward the other person. Other variations of empathic emotions have been investigated too, including empathic joy, empathic embarrassment, and empathic anger. The term altruism has also been used as a label for a broad range of phenomena, including any type of helping behavior, personality traits associated with helpful persons, and biological influences that spur protection of genetically related others. However, a particularly fruitful research tradition has focused on altruism as a motivational state with the ultimate goal of protecting or promoting the welfare of a valued other. For example, the empathy–altruism hypothesis claims that empathy (construed as an other-oriented emotional state) evokes altruism (construed as a motivational state). Empathy and altruism, regardless of how they are construed, have important consequences for understanding human behavior in general, and for understanding social relationships and well-being in particular.

Article

Religiosity and Development  

Jeanet Sinding Bentzen

Economics of religion is the application of economic methods to the study of causes and consequences of religion. Ever since Max Weber set forth his theory of the Protestant ethic, social scientists have compared socioeconomic differences across Protestants and Catholics, Muslims, and Christians, and more recently across different intensities of religiosity. Religiosity refers to an individual’s degree of religious attendance and strength of beliefs. Religiosity rises with a growing demand for religion resulting from adversity and insecurity or a surging supply of religion stemming from increasing numbers of religious organizations, for instance. Religiosity has fallen in some Western countries since the mid-20th century, but has strengthened in several other societies around the world. Religion is a multidimensional concept, and religiosity has multiple impacts on socioeconomic outcomes, depending on the dimension observed. Religion covers public religious activities such as church attendance, which involves exposure to religious doctrines and to fellow believers, potentially strengthening social capital and trust among believers. Religious doctrines teach belief in supernatural beings, but also social views on hard work, refraining from deviant activities, and adherence to traditional norms. These norms and social views are sometimes orthogonal to the general tendency of modernization, and religion may contribute to the rising polarization on social issues regarding abortion, LGBT rights, women, and immigration. These norms and social views are again potentially in conflict with science and innovation, incentivizing some religious authorities to curb scientific progress. Further, religion encompasses private religious activities such as prayer and the particular religious beliefs, which may provide comfort and buffering against stressful events. At the same time, rulers may exploit the existence of belief in higher powers for political purposes. Empirical research supports these predictions. Consequences of higher religiosity include more emphasis on traditional values such as traditional gender norms and attitudes against homosexuality, lower rates of technical education, restrictions on science and democracy, rising polarization and conflict, and lower average incomes. Positive consequences of religiosity include improved health and depression rates, crime reduction, increased happiness, higher prosociality among believers, and consumption and well-being levels that are less sensitive to shocks.

Article

Effective Practices for Teaching Social Skills  

Timothy J. Lewis, Courtney Jorgenson, Jessica Simpson, and Trisha Guffey

Student problem behavior continues to significantly impact student academic, social, and emotional functional in school and post-school. Positive behavior support (PBS) focuses on identifying and teaching prosocial behavior and providing environmental supports to increase the likelihood that students will fluently use prosocial skills across school environments. Directly teaching prosocial social skills, discrete behaviors that lead to important social outcomes for the student, has been an advocated strategy for decades. Effective social skill instruction follows a direct instruction format and are taught through a “tell-show-practice” format whereby the teacher provides a definition of the skill and under what conditions it should be used (tell), then provides examples and non-examples of the social skill (show), followed by students using the skill in role-play situations based on natural school contexts (practice). Key to success, of course, is providing multiple opportunities to practice across all school settings with multiple adults to build fluency and generalized responding. Social skill instruction is one component of increasing student “social competency.” Social competence is defined as using the appropriate social skill, as defined by the students’ peers, adults, and larger community standards, to get their needs met. Social skill instruction should focus on improving overall student social competence, and not simple discrete skill mastery. Recent work expanding PBS across all school settings (i.e., school-wide) through a continuum of tiered instruction and environmental support strategies has demonstrated improved social competence among all students, including those at risk and with disabilities.

Article

Wisdom Across Cultures  

Igor Grossmann and Franki Kung

The concept of wisdom is ancient and deeply embedded in the cultural history of humanity. However, only since 1980s have psychologists begun to study it scientifically. Taking a culturally and philosophically informed perspective, this article integrates insights from the quantitative science of wisdom. Analysis of epistemological traditions and research on folk theories of wisdom suggest cultural similarities in the domain of cognition (e.g., wisdom as reasoning ability and knowledge). These similarities can be contrasted with cultural differences concerning folk-theoretical affective and prosocial themes of wisdom, as well as expression of various wisdom-related themes, rooted in distinct sociocultural and ecological environments. Empirical evidence indicates that wisdom is an individually and culturally malleable construct, consistent with an emerging constructionist account of wisdom and its development. Future research can benefit from integration of ecological and cultural-historical factors for the meaning of wisdom and its expression.

Article

Appeals to Morality in Health and Risk Messaging  

Ann Neville Miller

Many health- and risk-related behaviors have moral implications. Most obvious are altruistic behaviors like blood donation. However, issues related to promoting the wellbeing of friends and family members, such as being sure that they don’t drive drunk, and the generalized obligations that attend environmentally relevant behaviors like participating in recycling programs, also tap into moral concerns. For promoting such issues, moral appeals may be appropriate. Moral appeals are messages that acknowledge individuals’ evaluative beliefs about universal rights and wrongs. Appeals to morality produce a sense of obligation and responsibility because morals are viewed as self-evident facts. Three explanations for why people engage in moral behavior are discernible in current scholarship, each with implications for structuring moral appeals: activation of social expectations, activation of personal norms, and arousal of emotion. The first of these is based on the subjective expected utility tradition. From this perspective, the key to successfully encouraging morally relevant behavior is maximizing benefits and minimizing costs. Because prosocial behaviors are enforced by social sanctions, many of these costs and benefits are socially bestowed. Thus, altruism at its core is hedonism. Theories that focus on activation of personal norms, in contrast, contend that people sometimes make decisions to donate blood, demonstrate for healthcare reform, recycle, and so on simply because they view it as their duty and responsibility to do so. When people realize in a concrete situation that their actions have consequences for the welfare of others, and that they are personally responsible for those outcomes, personal norms for the specific case are generated from internalized moral values. In this view, a central concern with moral appeals is ensuring that messages are aligned with internalized norms and that relevance and personal responsibilities are clearly communicated. Finally, theories of emotional arousal stress that although cognitive appraisals of personal and social norms are necessary, they are insufficient to incite people to selfless behavior. Rather, people engage in helping or altruistic behavior because moral appeals are emotionally arousing. Emotions associated with such appeals include empathic concern and guilt. Guilt appeals especially have been found to be as effective in eliciting compliance when behaviors have moral significance as other popular compliance-gaining strategies. Positive emphasis on responsibility and induction of hypocrisy are also techniques that rely on the appeal to moral beliefs.

Article

School Climate  

Ruth Berkowitz, Aidyn Iachini, Hadass Moore, Gordon Capp, Ron Avi Astor, Ronald Pitner, and Rami Benbenishty

Educational practitioners and researchers have increasingly recognized the importance of the context in which learning occurs, particularly the influence of school climate on students’ academic, social, and emotional outcomes. School climate is based on the subjective experiences of school life for students, staff members, school leaders, parents, and the entire school community. A school’s climate reflects its norms, goals, values, interpersonal relationships, teaching and learning practices, and organizational structures. A large body of evidence connects a positive school climate to improvements in children’s learning and healthy development in school. A positive school climate is also an essential component within comprehensive school improvement processes. Nonetheless, the divergence and disagreement in defining and measuring school climate in the literature are evident. There is a major interest in school climate improvement and school climate policy. However, the policy context that supports school climate varies considerably across the United States and internationally. Clarification regarding the dimensions of school climate and continued research on how a positive school climate contributes to both school and student outcomes remain important.

Article

Gender Differences in Moral Judgment and Behavior  

John C. Gibbs

Males and females differ—but only moderately—in moral judgment and morally relevant social behavior such as caring for others and aggression. Females more frequently use care-related concerns in their moral judgment. Research has to some extent supported traditional stereotypes of males as more assertive or independent (agency) and females as more relational or affiliative (communion). Males are on average more aggressive than females even after relational aggression is taken into account. In the expression of empathy and prosocial behavior, situational context plays a larger role for males than females. Males’ gender tendencies have been characterized as instrumental (“report talk,” object oriented, etc.) and females’ as socially and emotionally expressive (“rapport talk,” people oriented, etc.). In social relationships, adolescent girls generally engage in more intimate self-disclosure and active listening, provide more emotional support to one another, and emphasize affiliation and collaboration. Both biological and social experiential or cultural factors are involved in the formation of these morally relevant gender differences. Although average gender-linked differences in emphasis remain evident, a blend of instrumental and expressive characteristics may contribute to optimal morality for both genders. Sandra Bem termed the mixture of expressive (traditionally feminine) and instrumental (traditionally masculine) attributes in gender style “androgyny.” Highly androgynous adolescents and adults of both genders evidence more mature moral judgment and more adequate mental health.