Helping behavior refers to voluntary actions intended to help others, with reward regarded or disregarded. It is a type of prosocial behavior (voluntary action intended to help or benefit another individual or group of individuals, such as sharing, comforting, rescuing and helping).
Altruism is distinguished from helping behavior in this way: Altruism refers to prosocial behaviors that are carried out without expectation of obtaining external reward (concrete reward or social reward) or internal reward (self-reward). An example of altruism would be anonymously donating to charity.
Kin selection theory explains altruism from an evolutionary perspective. Since natural selection screens out species without abilities to adapt to the challenging environment, preservation of good traits and superior genes are important for survival of future generations (i.e. inclusive fitness). Kin selection refers to an inheritable tendency to perform behaviors that may favor the chance of survival of people with a similar genetic base.
W. D. Hamilton proposed a mathematical expression for the kin selection:
"where B is the benefit to the recipient, C is the cost to the altruist (both measured as the number of offspring gained or lost) and r is the coefficient of relationship (i.e. the probability that they share the same gene by descent)."
An experiment conducted in Britain supported kin selection It is illustrated[clarification needed] by diagram below. The result showed that people were more willing to provide help to people with higher relatedness, something which occurs in both genders and in various cultures. The result also shows gender difference in kin selection: men are more affected by cues suggesting a similar genetic base than women.
Reciprocal altruism is the idea that the incentive for an individual to help in the present is based on the expectation of receipt of help in the future. Robert Trivers believes it is advantageous for an organism to pay a cost for the benefit of another non-related organism if the favor is repaid (when the benefit of the sacrifice outweighs the cost).
As Peter Singer notes, “reciprocity is found amongst all social mammals with long memories who live in stable communities and recognize each other as individuals.” Individuals should identify cheaters (those who do not reciprocate help) who lose the benefit of help from them in the future, as seen, for example, in blood-sharing by vampire bats.
Economic trade and business may be fostered by reciprocal altruism in which products given and received involve different exchanges. Economic trades follow the “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” principle. A pattern of frequent giving and receiving of help among workers boosts both productivity and social standing.
The negative-state relief model of helping states that people help because of egoism. Egoistic motives lead a person to help others in bad circumstances in order to reduce personal distress experienced from knowing the situation of the people in need. Helping behavior happens only when the personal distress cannot be relieved by other actions. This model also explains people's avoidance behavior when they notice people in need: this is an alternative way for them to reduce their own distress.
In one study, guilt feelings were induced in subjects by having them accidentally ruin a student's thesis data or by them seeing the data being ruined. Some subjects experienced positive events afterwards, e.g. being praised. Subjects who experienced negative guilt feelings were more motivated to help than those who had a neutral emotion. However, once the negative mood was relieved by receiving praise, subjects no longer had high motivation to help.
A second study found that people who anticipate positive events (in this case, listening to a comedy tape), show low helping motivation since they are expecting their negative emotions to be lifted up by the upcoming stimulation.
Main article: Empathy-altruism
People may initiate helping behavior when they feel empathy for the person being helped—when they identify with that person and feel and understand what that person is experiencing.
According to the Empathy-altruism hypothesis of Daniel Batson, the decision of whether to help or not depends primarily on whether you feel empathy for the person and secondarily on the cost and rewards (social exchange concerns).
The hypothesis was supported by a study that divided participants into a high-empathy group and a low-empathy group. Both groups had to listen to another student, Janet, who reported feeling lonely. The study found that high-empathy group (told to imagine vividly how Janet felt) volunteered to spend more time with Janetclarification needed]. It shows that if a person feels empathy, they will help without considering the cost and reward, which supports the empathy-altruism hypothesis.[
A strong influence on helping is feeling responsible to help, especially when combined with the belief that one can help other people. The feeling of responsibility can result from a situation that focuses responsibility on a person, or it can be a personal characteristic (leading to helping when activated by others' need). Ervin Staub described a "prosocial value orientation" that makes helping more likely when noticing a person in physical distress or psychological distress. Prosocial orientation was also negatively related to aggression in boys, and positively related to "constructive patriotism". The components of this orientation are a positive view of human beings, concern about others' welfare, and a feeling of and belief in one's responsibility for others' welfare.
According to the social-exchange theory, people help because they want to gain goods from the one being helped. People estimate the rewards and costs of helping others, and aim at maximizing the former and minimizing the latter.
Rewards are incentives, which can be material goods, social rewards which can improve one's image and reputation (e.g. praise), or clarification needed].[
Rewards are either external or internal. External rewards are things that are obtained from others when helping them, for instance, friendship and gratitude. People are more likely to help those who are more attractive or important, whose approval is desired. Internal reward is generated by oneself when helping. This can be, for example, a sense of goodness and self-satisfaction. When seeing someone in distress, we may empathize with that person and thereby become aroused and distressed. We may choose to help in order to reduce this arousal and distress. According to this theory, before helping, people consciously calculate the benefits and costs of helping and not helping, and they help when the overall benefit to themselves of helping outweighs the cost.
A major cultural difference is between collectivism and individualism. Collectivists attend more to the needs and goals of the group they belong to, while individualists focus on themselves. This might suggest that collectivists would be more likely to help ingroup members, and would help strangers less frequently than would individualists.
Helping behavior is influenced by the economic environment. In general, frequency of helping behavior in a country is inversely related to the country's clarification needed].[
A meta-analytical study found out that at either extreme, urban (300,000 people or more) or rural environments (5,000 people or less), are the worst places if you're looking for help.
Edgar Henry Schein describes three different roles people may follow when they respond to requests for help: The Expert Resource Role, The Doctor Role, The Process Consultant Role.: 53–54