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date: 22 April 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Prosocial behavior has long been a topic of interest to social psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, and others. Moreover, empirical studies on this topic abound. However, most of this research fails to consider how relational context shapes the antecedents, consequences, and frequency of prosocial behaviors as well as things such as the balance between giving and seeking prosocial behavior and what perceivers even consider to be prosocial behavior. Here we define relational context and discuss how it may be captured in terms of relationship type, in individual differences in orientation toward relationships, in relationship stage and history, and in the place of one relationship within a wider set of relationships. Then, using examples drawn from extant literature, we make a case that relational context shapes prosocial behavior in powerful ways and ought to be central to any theoretical analysis of the occurrence and nature of prosocial behavior.

Keywords: Relational context, Prosocial behavior, Relationship type, Relationship character, Relationship history, Relationship stage, Attachment styles

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