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Investigation Of The Influence Of Bystander Effect, Personality And Gender As Predictors Of Prosocial Behavior Among Undergraduates In Owerri




The study is on “Investigation of the Influence of Bystander Effect, Personality and Gender as Predictors of Prosocial Behavior among Undergraduates in Owerri”. The study has three specific objectives. Cross sectional Survey research design was used for the study. The population was two hundred and fifty (250) students whom were selected using convenient sampling technique due to the large population and the nature of the sampling (sampling size). The participants comprised of 144 females and 106 males. The age of the participants ranged from 18-31 years (M=24.5 SD=0.95) A questionnaire was used for data collection. The dividing of the study confirmed seven (7) hypotheses: the first null hypothesis which stated that bystander effect will not predict prosocial behaviour was rejected. This shows that bystander effect significantly predict prosocial behaviour. The second to sixth null hypotheses which stated that the Big five personality model (ie extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness to experience) were all accepted. This result implies that personality does not predict prosocial behaviour. And lastly the seventh null hypothesis which stated that gender will not significantly predict prosocial behaviour was accepted. This result shows that gender does not significantly predict prosocial behaviour. The study therefore recommended among others that People should change that mindset of “You must know someone” before you can help the person and the individual shouldn’t make it mandatory that a reward/incentive must be given first before rendering help to another. Individuals should try to help others without waiting for other bystanders to initiate help first before they can do so. People should not always wait to help others when only it’s an emergency or serious situation.


Background to the study

Prosocial behavior is a behavior that primarily benefits another, rather than oneself (Batson & Powell, 2013). Humans are inordinately helpful, not only do we help our kin and friends, we sometimes even help complete strangers. There are good reasons for this, first by helping someone; we increase the chances that we will be helped later, either by that person (direct reciprocity, Fehr, Gachter & Kirchsteiger 1997) or by others (indirect reciprocity, Seinen & Schram 2015). Thus, helping can enhance our reputations (Milinski, Semmann, & Krambeck 2013). Secondly, helping social partners we are dependesnt on benefiting in the long run, as it means that they are likely to be available as cooperative partners in the future (a phenomenon known as Mutualism, Tomasello, Melis, Tennie, Wyman & Hermann 2015).

Prosocial behavior can also be referred to as a broad category of  behaviours that includes any action that provides benefit to others like charitable, donations, community service, teamwork behavior etc. These actions may be motivated by empathy and by concern about the welfare and rights of others as well as for egoistic or practical concerns (Eisenberg, Fabes and Spinrad 2010).

Helping is the function of either relatively selfish or relatively unselfish motives (Baron & Byrne 2012). For centuries, it was assumed that all human behavior including the helping of others is egoistically motivated. The term egoism refers to selfish motive to pursue some sort of personal gain or benefits through targeted behavior such as helping others. But all the times, under some circumstances, the egoism motives account for the helping. On the other hand, empathy is an emotional response that refers to feelings of compassion, sympathy, tenderness and the like or to perceive plight of another person without any selfish motives.

Prosocial behavior is a conducted or planned action to help others, disregarding the helper’s motives. It involves sincere assistance (Altruism) which is entirely motivated by self interest.

It activities implies to attention and assistance towards other people, or devotion (love, loyalty, service) which are rendered to others without any expectation to get something in return (Myers, 2014).

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The purest forms of prosocial behavior might be motivated by altruism, an unselfish interest in helping another person. According to Sanstock (2007), the circumstances most likely to evoke altruism are empathy for an individual in need or a close relationship between the benefactor and the recipient. However, striking findings from social psychology have demonstrated that sometimes we fail to help, particularly in the presence of others. Darley and Latane (1968, 1970, Latane & Darley, 1968) were the first to assess the so-called bystander effect experimentally. They found that the presence of other potential helpers decreased participant’s likelihood of helping. Although there are many influences on prosocial behavior of particular interest to many researchers is the number of other people present who could act prosocially, but likely won’t. The probability of the bystander helping someone in need is inversely related to the number of bystanders present (Aronson, Wilson, Akert & Sommers, 2016).

In 1964, the story surrounding Kitty Genovese’s murder was shocking enough to receive national media coverage. Kitty Genovese was attacked by a stranger and in the process of the attack thirty–eight (38) of her neighbors heard her screams and witnessed her murder from their windows, but none called the police, much less intervened (Rosenthal, 1964/1999).

It would be nice to believe that this was an isolated incident, but less extreme examples happens every day. Essentially, the bystander effect suggests that individuals are less likely to offer assistance in an emergency and are generally slower to respond when other witnesses are around. It’s not that people are primarily apathetic or that they fear reprisal, rather the presence of a group actively inhibits an individual from acting in an emergency situation (Latane & Darley 1970). A number of studies by Latane, Darley and their students have been carried out for this effect. For example, one such study examined how people react to ambiguous but potentially dangerous situations (Latane & Darley 1968).  In this study the participants were male college students who believed that they were waiting to be interviewed about problems with urban life. While the student was filling out the preliminary forms, the room began to fill with acrid smoke. Participants who waited alone generally reported the smoke calmly almost as soon as they noticed it. When the participants were waited with two confederates who were trained not to respond to the smoke, only 10% reported the problem before the designated 6 minutes stopping point. Surprisingly, however, when the participants waited with two other naive participants, response rates were still low. When all three students were completely free to respond, the inaction of one inhibited the action of the other two. Latane & Darley (1968) suggested that the reason this happens is that each individual attempts to determine the danger present in the situation simultaneously.

Through these and other studies (e.g Darley & Latene 1968, Darley & Latene 1969, Latene &  Darley 1970) built a model of the stages of decisions that must be made before bystanders will intervene in an emergency.

First, bystanders need to notice the emergency. Bystanders then need to interpret the situation as one in which action is necessary and then further interpret it as one in which they specifically should react. Next, bystanders need to determine what form the action should take. Finally, they must actually act. The longer bystanders wait to respond, the less likely they are to even actually respond.

However, there are many other variables that may influence bystander intervention, including whether or not the situation is an emergency (a danger is posed to a victim or situations in which a villain has infringed upon the rights of others and prompt action is necessary).

Personality is one of the main concerns contributing to prosocial behaviors. It refers to an enduring system of characteristics that individual carry from one situation to another, which affects their behavior across these contexts (Caplan, 2013). Personality traits are dimension of individual differences in tendencies to show consistent patterns of thoughts, feelings and actions, these traits shape how individuals direct their attention and activate specific goals (McCrae & Costa, 2014).  Certain traits direct attention outwardly towards others, leading to individuals to pay attention to others need and recognize opportunities to help others. Some personality traits, such as anger and aggression result in disengagement of prosocial behavior.

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The relationship of individual personality traits and specific criteria has been great when traits are linked to theoretically relevant variables described in the Five Factor Model (FFM) of personality consisting of extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness to experience (Furnham, Treglown, Hyde & Trickey, 2016).



Extraversion is characterized by excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness and high amounts of emotional expressiveness. Extraverts are energetic and optimistic while the introverts tend to be more reserved and have less energy to expend in social settings. Extraverts commonly render help towards both their family members, friends and strangers.


This personality dimension includes attributes such as trust, altruism, kindness, affection and other prosocial behaviors. People who are high in agreeableness tend to be more cooperative while those disagreeable person’s tend to be more competitive, egocentric and sometimes even manipulative. Wilkowski, Robinson and Meier (2016) claimed that the individuals with high agreeableness have a tendency to perform prosocial behaviors towards their family members, friends/acquaintances and strangers.


Conscientious refers to self-control and the active process of planning, organizing and carrying out tasks (Barrick & Mount 2014). The conscientious person is purposeful, strong willed and determined. He plan ahead, think about how his behavior affects others, and are mindful of deadlines. High conscientious people tend to be organized and mindful of details; they plan ahead of time while low conscientious people fail to plan ahead and fail to organize things. Conscientious individuals render prosocial behavior only toward their family members.


Neuroticism is a personality trait characterized by sadness, fear, emotional instability, anger, disgust, guilt, and embarrassment. Neurotic individuals tend to experience mood swings, anxiety and sadness. Individuals with this personality trait tends to be less prosocial and altruistic, people who are high in this trait experience mood swings, irritability and sadness while those low in this trait may be too pessimistic and self-obsessed to be able to regularly offer help to others.

Openness to experience

This trait features characteristics such as imagination, curiosity, attentiveness to inner feelings and insight. People with this trait render help mostly towards strangers, people who are high in this trait tend to have a broad range of interests, adventurous and creative while people low in this trait are often much more traditional and may struggle with abstract thinking.

Most psychologist agree that gender is one of the most important social categories (Weatherall and Gallois, 2014) and it is probably one of the first thing we notice when we meet a new person. Eagly (1987) supports the argument that women are more altruistic in their helping. Women tend to provide emotional support and counseling and they also show more compassion towards those in need of help. They are more likely than men to display a care moral orientation in which moral dilemmas are resolved with a focus on a desire to maintain relationships and a responsibility not to cause hurt. Consistent with gender roles, men more than women tend to report higher levels of agenetic attributes.

Meta-analyses investigating sex differences in helping behavior find that men help more often than women (Fischer et al, Eagly & Crowey 2011). However, this may be more particularly true when the situation is defined as an emergency, allowing men to act in more heroic ways (Eagly & Crowlely, 1986). On the other hand, in everyday situations, gender differences in helping behavior may be less likely, if men exhibit heroic and chivalrous helping behavior according to the social- role theory of gender and helping, then one would think that women are more likely to receive help in emergency situations (likely from male bystanders) but, similarly gender differences in receiving help may disappear in non-emergency situations.

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Eagly (1987) suggest that male predominance in heroism is in part due to the requirements for the rewards which state that the act must be an attempt to save another life that puts the actor’s own life at risks and occurs outside of the individuals occupational role. These awards often involve emergency rescues of strangers and thus draw on qualities of physical strength and risk –taking that are central to the male gender role. The idea that others expectations reinforce gendered notions of helping is consistent with the finding that men tend to help more than women particularly when the helping request is witnessed by an audience.

Statement of the problem    

Prosocial behavior which is characterized by a concern about the rights, feelings and welfare of others has been in existence among undergraduates, males and females inclusive in various institutions. This helping behavior noticed among undergraduates has also been proven to be both theoretical and practical because it tends to have substantial influence on students irrespective of their gender role, age, and personality. Bystander effect, gender and personality have been noted among various factors which influence prosocial behavior. However, the researcher wonder how these variables “Bystanders effect”, “Gender” and “Personality” can influence prosocial behavior of undergraduates in Imo State University and also to see if the research results will correspond with previous researches that employed experimental method.

Purpose of the study

This study is generally aimed at ascertaining the influence of bystander effect, gender and personality on prosocial behavior among undergraduates in Owerri.

The specific objectives of the study are:

  1. To investigate the influence of bystander effect on prosocial behavior among undergraduates.
  2. To investigate the influence of gender on prosocial behavior among undergraduates.
  3. To investigate the influence of personality trait (ie Big Five Model) on prosocial behavior among undergraduates.

Operational definitions of terms

Bystander effect:- This is a phenomenon which suggests that individuals/ people are less likely to offer assistance or render help in an emergency situation when others  are present. It is measured in this study using the Bystander Intervention Inventory (BII). The BII scale was created by Ekezie (2021) for this study. It was modeled after the Bowes-Sperry and O’ Leary-Kelly (2006) observer intervention behavior typology.

Gender:- This refers to a socio-cultural dimension of being either a male or a female.

Personality trait:- This refers to relatively enduring characteristics that influence an individual’s behavior across many situations. This is measured using the Big Five personality dimension.

Big Five Inventory (BFI):- This is an instrument developed by John O.P (1990). The 44 item inventory is one of the six psychological instruments which assess personality which are; Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Openness to experience, Neuroticism, and Extroversion.

Agreeableness:- This personality dimension is characterized by being compassionate, trust, altruism, kindness, affection and other prosocial behavior. People who are high in this trait tend to show altruistic behavior towards their family members, friends and strangers.

Conscientiousness:- This trait is characterized by self-disciplined, good impulse control, being organized and goal directed. Conscientious individuals tend to render help only to their family members.

Extraversion:- This trait is characterized by excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness and high amount of emotional expressiveness. Extroversion individuals commonly render help to their family members, friends, or acquaintances and strangers.

Neuroticism:- This trait is characterized by sadness, moodiness, and  emotional instability. People with this trait are less altruistic towards others.

Openness to experience:- This personality dimensions is characterized with traits such as imagination and insight. Individuals who possess this trait render help mostly to strangers.

Prosocial behavior:- It is a behavior that primarily benefit others without  the intention or interest of being rewarded. This is measured in this study using Altruistic Behavior Scale (ABS) developed by Baston and Week (1996).

Pages:  48

Category: Project

Format:  Word & PDF         

Chapters: 1-5                                 

Material contains Table of Content, Abstract and References.


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