Situational influences sometimes work to inhibit helping behaviors. In an emergency situation, the more people that are around, the less likely the emergency will be noticed or interpreted as an emergency. Further, as the group grows, responsibility is dispersed and individuals are more likely to assume that someone else will do (or has) done something. Conversely if an individual notices a situation and others around do not seem to be agitated he/she may assume that the situation is not anything to be concerned about (judging from other individual’s behavior) and not take action either.
Although personality traits have not traditionally been a good predictor of helping behaviors, religious faith (non-exclusivist) has been a good indicator of long-term altruistic behavior (p 472). Moral exclusion- “the perception of certain individuals or groups as outside the boundary within which one applies moral values and rules of fairness” (p. 476) is a huge problem in our society. The tendency for churches and groups to care, advocate, and even fight for some groups to the exclusion or even destruction of others is an exploitive cruelty that leads to horrible things like Hitler’s Holocaust and has been an obvious precursor to many instances of genocide and war (Myers, 2010). I believe it was Thomas Jefferson that promoted the idea that “all men are created equal.”
Research has shown that helping behaviors can be increased by making personal appeals to increase feelings of responsibility, by using “reprimands or the door-in-the-face technique to evoke feelings of guilt or a concern of self-image” (p. 480), and also by teaching altruism. If we behave altruistically ourselves and provide opportunities for others to behave in helpful ways it is far more likely for other individuals to develop long-term altruistic tendencies. “It’s nicer for everyone when everyone’s nice.” (Me)