Prosocial behavior: multilevel perspectives

Annu Rev Psychol. 2005;56:365-92. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.56.091103.070141.


Current research on prosocial behavior covers a broad and diverse range of phenomena. We argue that this large research literature can be best organized and understood from a multilevel perspective. We identify three levels of analysis of prosocial behavior: (a) the "meso" level--the study of helper-recipient dyads in the context of a specific situation; (b) the micro level--the study of the origins of prosocial tendencies and the sources of variation in these tendencies; and (c) the macro level--the study of prosocial actions that occur within the context of groups and large organizations. We present research at each level and discuss similarities and differences across levels. Finally, we consider ways in which theory and research at these three levels of analysis might be combined in future intra- and interdisciplinary research on prosocial behavior.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Altruism
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Helping Behavior
  • Humans
  • Motivation
  • Personality
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Identification