Role Models and Social influence role Models Prosocial examples in the media present models for people to follow. Observing helpful models—whether they be friends, parents, teachers, celebrities, or others—increases helping in a variety of situations. Similarly, seeing models of selfish, greedy behavior can promote selfish, greedy behavior in turn.
Why do people who exemplify helping inspire us to help? Three reasons stand out. First, they provide an example of behavior for us to imitate directly. Second, when they are rewarded for their helpful behavior, people who model helping behavior teach us that helping is valued and rewarding, which strength- ens our own inclination to be helpful. Third, the behavior of these models makes us think about and become more aware of the standards of conduct in our society.
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Social influence Have you ever agreed to chip in to buy a present for some- one or to do a favor for someone only because your friends or coworkers were doing so and you didn’t want to be the only one not contributing? If so, you’ve experienced the act of doing something altruistic for reasons having nothing to do with altruism. Rather, your prosocial behavior was due to peer pressure and social influence. This cause of helping behavior doesn’t get as much attention as the other factors we’ve been discussing in this chapter, but it does play an important role in determining when people help in a variety of situations. As we will discuss later in a section on Culture and Helping, this type of influence may be especially strong in collectivist cultures.