Social Psychology

Student Learning Program

Chapter 14: Role of superficial or systematic processing in helping and cooperation (pp. 540545)

Ask Yourself?

In this topic

  1. The Impact of Processing (pp. 540544)
    1. Spontaneous helping, superficial processing
    2. Planned helping, systematic processing
    3. Volunteering in the AIDS epidemic
    4. Helping in organizations
  2. Personality Differences in Helping (pp. 544545)
The Impact of Processing
Spontaneous helping, superficial processing

Strong emotions lead to quick and impulsive reactions. When arousal is high and time for reflections is limited, people act on their most accessible motives and norms. Superficial processing leads to behavior that is driven by the most readily accessible mental representations. Priming manipulations can therefore influence this behavior by making representations more accessible.

Planned helping, systematic processing

Decisions based on extensive thought produce long-lasting commitments that are not easily changed. Thinking thoroughly about helping and repeated involvement in helping behavior reinforce that behavior. Processes of self-perception, self-efficacy, and positive health benefits also strengthen the prosocial behavior.

There are six motives for helping: expressing personal values related to humanitarian concern for others; gaining understanding, new knowledge, and skills; socializing with friends and earning approval; obtaining career benefits; helping solve personal problems; and enhancing self-esteem and personal growth.

Volunteering in the AIDS epidemic

There are a lot of different reasons to become an AIDS volunteer. However, all volunteers' decisions to do the work are the result of lengthy consideration. Remarkably, research found that volunteers who expressed the more selfish motivations were more likely to stick with their service.

Helping in organizations

Organizational citizenship behaviors, helping with tasks that go beyond the formal job description, arise from the motivation to help the organization, not from the motivation to look good.

Personality Differences in Helping

Research by Piliavin et al. (1981) showed the importance of situational factors in helping behavior, rather than personality factors. However, other research showed that there are two important personality factors that play a role (the higher people score on these factors, the more likely they are to help):

The tendency to cooperate in social dilemmas is related to helping behavior, which suggests that these two forms of prosocial behavior have common motivational roots.

So what does this mean?

When desires and norms conflict, various factors may be considered superficially or thought through extensively before a decision about helping is made. Emotions can play a role in this process, because strong emotion disrupts extensive processing. When helping is a considered decision, though, it can result in a long-term commitment. Personality factors related to helping and cooperation include differences in empathy and concern for others' welfare, as well as in self-efficacy or the confidence that one's actions will be effective.

Next topic

Prosocial behavior in society

In this chapter

  1. Chapter 14 introduction
  2. When do people help?
  3. Why do people help? Helping for mastery and connectedness
  4. Role of superficial or systematic processing in helping and cooperation
  5. Prosocial behavior in society
  6. Chapter overview (PDF)
  7. Fill-in-the-blanks
  8. Multiple-choice questions