How do social norms influence prosocial development?

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Humans are both highly prosocial and extremely sensitive to social norms, and some theories suggest that norms are necessary to account for uniquely human forms of prosocial behavior and cooperation. Understanding how norms influence prosocial behavior is thus essential if we are to describe the psychology and development of prosocial behavior. In this article I review recent research from across the social sciences that provides (1) a theoretical model of how norms influence prosocial behavior, (2) empirical support for the model based on studies with adults and children, and (3) predictions about the psychological mechanisms through which norms shape prosocial behavior. I conclude by discussing the need for future studies into how prosocial behavior develops through emerging interactions between culturally varying norms, social cognition, emotions, and potentially genes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-91
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Opinion in Psychology
Early online date12 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018

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