"The Field of Prosocial Behavior: An Introduction and Overview" - from The Oxford Handbook of Prosocial Behavior
Why I picked it up: I am delving deep into prosocial behaviors, as I want to understand the role of museums in promoting empathy, compassion, understanding, and tolerance. So, in my totally geeky way, I got very excited when I discovered this book that has no fewer than 17 articles that appear relevant. I'll be plowing through it as long as my inter-library loan lasts (thank you, University of Wyoming for sending it to me in Seattle!).
Overview of prosocial behavior: Prosocial behavior is exactly what it sounds like: behaviors of people who act to benefit other people. It can come in many different forms, from rendering aid to volunteering to sharing resources (basically, all forms of generosity, as covered in American Generosity - reviewed here). But while it is easy to identify, it is much harder to understand the nature and source of that behavior. Why do some people choose to help, to be generous?
Since prosocial behavior is "the glue that holds the social fabric of society together," the more we can understand its source and how to develop it, the better.
This introduction lays out :
My goals for reviewing the rest of the book: Most of the introduction talked about prosocial behaviors from developmental and heritable perspectives, which I agree are important in understanding the why behind those behaviors. But aside from developing exhibitions and programs that are developmentally appropriate, they are not the focus of my lines of inquiry.
Instead, I am more interested in the cognitive component that underlies behaviors. That is, what is it that we learn (knowledge gained) that broadens our minds and permits perspective taking, thus cultivating empathy, compassion, tolerance, and greater understanding? Or, to paraphrase His Holiness the Dalai Lama, how can we be more warm-minded?
But I want to also back it up even further to what motivates people to learn in the first place (in particular, curiosity). So as I wade through the 787 pages of academic explorations on prosociality, I'll be thinking about the links between curiosity, knowledge, and empathy and compassion, thus making us more warm-minded … and in ways that make this world a kinder, more just place for everyone.
Coming up: The book is broken up into four sections; I'm likely going to do a review or each chapter, selecting relevant essays and findings. These include:
And let's be honest. The stuff is dense, so it is going to take me some time to read and review!
Full citation: Schroeder, David A. and Graziano, William G. "The Field of Prosocial Behavior: An Introduction and Overview." The Oxford Handbook of Prosocial Behavior, edited by David A. Schroeder and William G. Graziano, Oxford University Press, 2015, pp. 3 - 34.
Have a suggestion for my reading list? Email it to me at susie (at) wilkeningconsulting (dot) com.