Read the following op-ed article about those who helped the wounded after the Boston Marathon bombings. After reading in Module 45 about the norms for helping, discuss what role the “social exchange theory” and “social norms” may have played in the Boston bombing scenario.
Title: Role of Social Exchange Theory and Social Norms in the Boston Marathon Bombing Scenario
The tragic events of the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013 highlighted both the immense acts of heroism by individuals who assisted the wounded and the subsequent outpouring of support from the community. This assignmen examines the role of the social exchange theory and social norms in influencing the actions of individuals who helped the wounded in the aftermath of the bombings. Understanding the psychological and sociological factors that drive human behavior in times of crisis can provide insights into the dynamics of collective assistance and resilience.
Social Exchange Theory:
The social exchange theory posits that individuals engage in social interactions with the expectation of gaining rewards and avoiding negative outcomes (Homans, 1958). This framework suggests that helping behavior is driven by a cost-benefit analysis, where individuals weigh the potential costs and rewards associated with offering their assistance. In the context of the Boston bombing scenario, the social exchange theory can explain why individuals risked their safety to help the wounded.
One aspect of the social exchange theory is the concept of reciprocal altruism, which asserts that individuals are more likely to help others if there is an expectation of future assistance in return (Trivers, 1971). In the aftermath of the bombings, the community rallied together, forming a strong bond among individuals united by a common traumatic experience. The shared sense of solidarity may have influenced people to provide immediate assistance to the wounded, with the expectation that others would do the same in future crises.
Moreover, the social exchange theory recognizes the influence of reputation and social status on individuals’ helping behavior. By aiding those in need, individuals may enhance their reputation and gain recognition from their peers (Fehr & Fischbacher, 2003). In the context of the Boston bombings, individuals who helped the wounded may have garnered respect and admiration from their community, leading to an increase in social status. This desire for social validation can act as a powerful motivator for individuals to engage in prosocial behavior.
Social norms are shared expectations about appropriate behavior within a particular social group (Bicchieri, 2005). In the aftermath of the Boston bombings, the adoption and adherence to certain social norms played a crucial role in shaping the actions of those who offered assistance. These norms create implicit guidelines regarding how individuals should behave under particular circumstances and provide a shared framework for understanding the context in which helping behavior occurs.
One relevant social norm in this scenario is the norm of reciprocity. This norm dictates that individuals should help others who have helped them in the past or are likely to help them in the future (Gouldner, 1960). In the wake of the bombings, the sense of collective trauma may have triggered this norm, compelling individuals to assist the wounded as a way of reciprocating the potential support they might receive in similar situations.
Furthermore, the norm of social responsibility can also explain the helping behavior seen after the Boston bombings. This norm asserts that individuals have a moral obligation to help those in need, particularly when there is a potential for severe harm or suffering (Darley & Latané, 1968). The magnitude of the bombings likely activated this norm, prompting individuals to fulfill their perceived duty to assist and alleviate suffering.
The social exchange theory and social norms both played significant roles in shaping the behavior of individuals who helped the wounded after the Boston Marathon bombings. The social exchange theory highlights the factors of reciprocal altruism and reputation enhancement for explaining why individuals risked their own well-being to offer assistance. Alternatively, social norms, such as the norms of reciprocity and social responsibility, provided a framework that influenced individuals’ behavior in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Understanding the interplay between psychological theories, such as the social exchange theory, and sociological norms can shed light on the motivations behind collective acts of kindness in times of crisis. Further research in this area can contribute to the development of interventions aimed at promoting pro-social behavior and fostering community resilience in the face of adversities.