Prosocial Behavior

This past week on the Red Line back from Boston I overheard a conversation between an Australian man and another passenger, both, who with suitcases, had seemingly just arrived from the airport. The Australian man had just landed in Boston and was in the United States for the first time, naturally with many questions. When the original conversationalist left the train at Kendall, the man from Melbourne looked to me. Reflecting on the experience, many of the prosocial concepts discussed in class were at play in the situation. To begin, I just recently spent a semester abroad in Germany. I remember painfully clearly how overwhelming entering an entirely new culture can be for the first days and weeks. This similarity between us created a feeling of empathy. Some of my closest friends abroad were Aussies. This parallel once again brought forth feelings of in-group connectedness and empathy. Another vital aspect in the process of deciding to offer my knowledge about the Greater Boston Area to this man was the fact that he said to the before-mentioned original airport mate that he was a visiting scholar at Tufts University. Like the cocktail effect of hearing ones own name, hearing this man from a far away continent utter the name of my home for the past four years caught my attention. The layers of connection which we shared definitely attracted me to speak to him. Other factors that may have had an affect were that I was in a good mood due to  coming from finally buying a new pair of glasses (six years overdue) and therefore was more inclined to pay attention to what was happening around me rather than getting stuck in my head anxiously considering my to-do list. Another consideration is that I was alone, which also allowed me greater focus on my surroundings. My aloneness can also be taken into consideration in eliminating the possibility that I was participating in the helping behavior because of the social exchange idea of my drive originating from the desire to impress those around me or fit into any social norms. I can now assess my own prosocial behaviors more critically, and hopefully act against any barriers to helping behaviors that may arise in my future.

Here’s me in the airport on my way to Germany. Nervous, excited, and confused, just seven months ago I was in the exact position as the Australian man I encountered on the train in Boston.

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