Editors: David A. Schroeder, PhD; and William C Graziano, PhD
Publisher: Oxford University Press – 787 pages
Book Review by: Sonu Chandiram

Prosocial behavior is essentially the actions of people to help other people, whether they be friends, relatives, disadvantaged ones, and even complete strangers. Who, what, when, where, why and how do people do things to benefit others? This book answers these questions and other related ones.

Sixty-three people in the fields of psychology, psychiatry, sociology, social psychology and others, with expertise on a broad range of areas relating to thought and behavior that benefits others, from all over the United States and six other countries – Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, and the Philippines – wrote the 33 chapters of this book.

The range of topics is extensive, and too numerous to list here, so we give you an overview below of the contents in this book of nearly 800 pages by naming the four Parts of this book, the Introduction, and the Conclusion:

Introduction: The Field of Prosocial Behavior: An Introduction and Overview

  1. Part One – Prosocial Behavior at the Micro Level
  2. Part Two – Prosocial Behavior at the Meso Level
  3. Part Three – Prosocial Behavior at the Macro Level
  4. Part Four – New Directions in Prosocial Behavior: Extensions of Prosocial Processes

Conclusion: Gaining the Big Picture: Prosocial Behavior as an End Product

Prosocial behavior is a broad and diverse area, with three levels of analysis as shown above. The authors offer their perspectives on topics such as:

  • Developmental processes that may predispose individuals to empathize with an respond to the needs of others
  • Individual differences that may interact with situational demands to promote helping
  • Underlying motivations of those helping others
  • Volunteerism and both intragroup and intergroup cooperation
  • Prosocial behavior as it extends to pro-environmental actions
  • Participation in clinical and medical trials
  • Promotion of world peace
  • Ways that gender, interpersonal relations, race and religion might affect decisions to give aid and support to others
  • Prosocial behavior that encourages readers and researchers to take an even broader consideration of the field to search for a prosocial consilience

One of the central topics in social psychology is prosocial behavior, and if you consider the number and frequency of contributions in other areas of psychology in general, prosocial behavior may be considered a central topic in psychology itself, contend the editors in their Preface.

This book brings together the latest research findings on prosocial behavior of more than sixty scholars around the world. Their contributions also point to issues that can be looked into further, in the near future so that we may gain a broader and deeper understanding of human beings in personal and social settings.

Some of these important issues that can and should be studied further to ensure the long-term survival of the humans on earth are: causes of ethnic genocide, motives that boost group pro-environmental action, common reasons for wars, and what helps promote world peace.

We strongly urge readers to carefully read and understand the points made in the Introduction, written by the two editors, so that they may develop an informed perspective and a strong foundation in their minds on prosocial behavior, and what leads people to it. Some of the questions this part of the book raises and provides answers to are the following:

  1. What are the different types of prosocial behavior?
  2. Why do people at in prosocial ways?
  3. Who is most likely to help another?
  4. When are prosocial actions displayed?

This is an excellent, comprehensive and detailed work on prosocial behavior, a topic in psychology that has not been looked into at depth before this book was published.


David A. Schroeder, PhD is Professor of Psychological Science and Director of the Graduate Experimental Training at the University of Arkansas. He received his BS in psychology from Purdue University and his PhD in social psychology from Arizona State University. He has authored numerous books and professional articles and delivered many conference presentations in the course of studying the motivation for helping behavior, social dilemmas, social-influence processes and social justice.

William C Graziano, PhD is Professor of Psychological Sciences at Purdue University. He received his BA in psychology from Franklin and Marshall College and his PhD from the University of Minnesota. He has authored professional articles and presentations on a range of topics, including personality and social/personality development, motivation, and interpersonal relations.