There are 3 main components to prosocial behaviour: who the helper is, who the person is that is receiving help and the situation that the 2 individuals are in. These 3 components can potentially determine exactly how much help the person will receive and whether they in fact receive help at all.
It is thought that two main areas affect whether a person will help another, which are individual differences and personal influences. Individual differences in prosocial behaviour have been researched by Weir and Dureen’s prosocial behaviour questionnaire. They found that those who offered help had high levels of empathy, were socially responsible members of society (felt it was their duty to help), lacked egocentrism and believed in a just world. Having said this, there is no single trait which is associated with all helping behaviours, a mixture of the mentioned traits is needed for helping behaviour to be offered.
Personal influences include the idea that a person may be egotistic, desiring to benefit themselves. An example is handing in a lost wallet to the police in the hope of receiving a financial reward. Another personal influence could be the mood that the individual is in that day. A good mood is more likely to produce helping behaviour, or wanting to be in a positive mood could produce helping behaviour as the act of helping can induce this. Having said this, self-concerns can play a role in whether helping behaviour is produced or not as if an individual is late for work and risks a sanction, they are less likely to stop in the street and help someone at the risk of being even later. Although this may appear selfish, it is supported by Darwin’s theory of ‘survival of the fittest’.
It is also important to consider whether an individual can actually help. Perceived competency is an important factor in deciding whether or not to give help to someone else. If a slender woman saw an overweight male fall to the floor, she may not feel she has the necessary strength or ability to help that man in any way, and as a result may not offer to help. It may also be that she is fearful of looking foolish to others, as she could potentially embarrass herself if she were to stop and attempt to help.
The ‘bystander effect’ is where individuals are less likely to help if there are several other bystanders not doing anything about it. Helping appears to decrease as number of bystanders increase. For example, in New York Kitty Genovese was brutally murdered on the street and approximately 38 witnessed her being stabbed over 43 minutes but no one called the police. The presence of others appears to inhibit helping as there is a diffusion of responsibility. Latane and Darley’s seizure study also suggests that you are more likely to help and respond faster