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Using one or more research studies, explain cross-cultural differences in pro-social behaviour.

Explain: Give a detailed account including reasons or cause. THESIS: Cross-cultural differences in pro-social behaviour can be explained to be a result of a complex interaction of environmental and social factors without the isolation of a single variable, as seen through research conducted by Levine et al. (1990s), Piliavin (1969), and Katz (1981). Pro-social behaviour: behaviour that benefits another person or has positive social consequences. Individualistic: ties between individuals are loose as everyone is expected to look after themselves and their immediate families. Collectivistic: strong ties between individuals right from birth involving extended families and their further support and protection. Social Identity Theory: individuals strive to improve their self-image by trying to enhance their self-esteem, based on either personal identity or various social identities. Cultural factors affecting pro-social behaviour Cultural norms, socialization practices in the family, and socioeconomic status all influence how and when pro-social behaviour is exhibited. Children learn cultural norms and practices through observation and reinforcement. Cultural dimensions such as individualism and collectivism seem to influence the degree to which pro-social behaviour is encouraged in children. Cultures value helping family members, for example when it is essential for the family's survival. In such cultures, children exhibit higher levels of pro-social tendencies. In individualist cultures they value personal success and competitiveness; child-rearing practices encourage competitiveness and pursuit of personal achievement because this will enhance the child's likelihood of future social success.

Levine at al. (1991-2001)


Aim: to investigate differences in helping behaviour towards strangers Procedure: st nd Tested in 36 cities around the US (1 study) and 23 large cities around the world (2 study). Participants (street walkers in the cities) participated in various field experiments including simple staged non-emergency situations that required acts of assistance Helping situations included: a pedestrian drops a pen on the street without noticing, a pedestrian wearing a leg brace drops some magazines and a blind pedestrian with a cane waits at a traffic light for assistance crossing the street Findings: 1st study: People in small + medium sized cities in southeast were most helpful Residents of larger north-eastern + west coast cities were least likely to help Best predictor of helping behaviour was population density 2nd study: Top five cities out of overall helping Bottom five cities out of overall helping index were: index were: Rio de Janero (Brazil) Sofia (Bulgaria) San Jose (Costa Rico) Amsterdam (Netherlands) Lilongwe (Mali) Singapore (Singapore) Calcutta (India) New York (USA) Vienna (Austria) Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)

Relationship between high helping behaviour and low economic productivity, possibly due to traditional value systems Simpatico hypothesis: citys personality affects individual behaviour (cultures that prioritize social obligations over individual achievements show more willingness to help) Evaluation: Strengths: High ecological validity (more realistic research) Various cities with different economic levels used Easy to replicate Supporting Studies Limitations: No significant relationship found between cultural variables measured and helping Measurement of pro-social behaviour is subjective + researcher bias Behaviour is different and many times untranslatable within cultures Generalizability (many of Levines conclusions dont completely follow same trends, ex. Prague: blind man vs. pen drop) Time consuming Did not occur in a controlled environment which causes lack of cause-and-effect relationships Many possible confounding variables (ex. challenging to reproduce each situation completely every time). Other Supporting Studies: Piliavin (1969) argued that observation of an emergency situation always creates an emotional arousal in bystanders which can be influenced by an individuals upbringing and values as seen through the cost-reward analysis (cost of helping vs. getting on with ones own business) which can differ in individualistic and collectivistic cultures. Whiting (1979) found that nurturing and helping behaviour in children (aged 3-11) is higher in Kenya, Mexico and the Philippines while the US scored the lowest. Helping least likely in communities where children completed school and had low involvement in the responsibilities of family life. Katz (1981) tested explanations of pro-social behaviour through social identity theory as they found that people were more likely to help members of their own rather than another ethnic group.

Conclusions about pro-social behaviour: Individualism and collectivism simply describe cultures, and cannot be said to cause differences in helping. Result of a complex interaction of environmental and social factors and that it is not possible to isolate individual variables to determine which play the most significant role in whether a person helps or not. Cross-cultural research on helping behaviour remains challenging due to the bias of the researchers in defining, observing, and interpreting helping behaviour.

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