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No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The social costs of prosocial behaviour

Raihani, NJ; Power, EA; (2021) No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The social costs of prosocial behaviour. Evolutionary Human Sciences , 3 , Article e40. 10.1017/ehs.2021.35. Green open access

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Abstract

Performing costly helpful behaviours can allow individuals to improve their reputation. Those who gain a good reputation are often preferred as interaction partners and are consequently better able to access support through cooperative relationships with others. But investing in prosocial displays can sometimes yield social costs: excessively generous individuals risk losing their good reputation, and even being vilified, ostracised or antisocially punished. As a consequence, people frequently try to downplay their prosocial actions or hide them from others. In this review, we explore when and why investments in prosocial behaviour are likely to yield social costs. We propose two key features of interactions that make it more likely that generous individuals will incur social costs when: (i) observers infer that helpful behaviour is motivated by strategic or selfish motives; and (ii) observers infer that helpful behaviour is detrimental to them. We describe how the cognition required to consider ulterior motives emerges over development and how these tendencies vary across cultures - and discuss how the potential for helpful actions to result in social costs might place boundaries on prosocial behaviour as well as limiting the contexts in which it might occur. We end by outlining the key avenues and priorities for future research.

Type: Article
Title: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The social costs of prosocial behaviour
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/ehs.2021.35
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1017/ehs.2021.35
Language: English
Additional information: This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10132411
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