Human beings are social beings. The tendency to behave, talk and walk like others is what we call conformity, which has been documented in various studies.
It is believed that sociality is a product of evolution, meaning that we have had better chances of survival in groups than we have had on our own.
We may react strongly to social exclusion because we are social beings. Indeed, research has shown that the brain reacts to social exclusion and physical pain in very similar ways.
This means that conformity is a driving force. Have you ever wondered why some people follow other people who don’t stop for a red traffic light? They behave like the group, possibly by instinct.
We know that conformity can result in both prosocial and antisocial behaviors. But does conformity only happen at the behavioral level? It seems not.
A study by Nook and colleagues (2016) finds that when people behave generously, other people begin to behave more generously and feel more empathy as well.
In the study, people who observed generous charity donations donated more than those who observed stingy donations.
Moreover, the prosocial behavior generalized across behaviors and situations. The people who observed generous donations wrote more supportive notes to others at a later time point.
When was the last time I was generous?