• Fri. Feb 17th, 2023

Happy Helpers: Research Reveals Connection Between Prosociality and Well-Being in Nordic Countries

OSLO, Norway (Nov. 16, 2018) (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joe J. Cardona Gonzalez/Released)

Nordic countries are often considered to be among the world’s happiest and most prosperous nations, and a new study suggests that this is due in part to a culture of prosociality, where people cooperate and work together for the common good. A soon to be released study has found that state-funded voluntarism, where the government provides funding and resources for citizens to volunteer, provides opportunities for altruism that contributes to the exceptional level of well-being in Nordic countries.

Altruistic practices are actions that are undertaken with the intention of promoting the well-being of others, without necessarily expecting any personal gain in return. This can include acts of kindness, volunteering, and charitable giving, among other things.

The study, which was conducted by researchers from the University of Oslo, examined how sociocultural context influences people’s prosocial strategies and how sharing insights and practices from democratic and authoritarian traditions can lead to new, revitalized forms of altruism.

The researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 32 Nordic and Slavonic helpers of Ukrainian refugees in Norway to illuminate the impact of culture and memory on altruistic practices. They identified cross-cultural interactions that generate trust, well-being, and social innovation, and defined points of tension between systemic and anti-systemic modes of prosociality.

Systemic prosociality involves working within the established social and political system to contribute to the common good. This can involve volunteering, donating to charity, or participating in government programs. Anti-systemic prosociality, on the other hand, involves engaging in prosocial behavior outside of established institutions, such as informal networks or ad-hoc groups, and may involve circumventing rules or regulations to achieve a particular outcome. This type of prosociality is often motivated by a desire for social change or to address perceived injustices in the existing system

The study found that the post-communist experience of the Slavonic informants motivated anti-systemic altruism, which highlights spontaneity, improvisation, and occasional rule breaking. On the other hand, Norwegian systemic altruism is based on trust, efficacy, and rule-following.

The study suggests that humanity’s evolutionary past coded into us a desire to strengthen our community by helping those in need. However, when authoritarian regimes enforce unselfish behavior on disempowered populations, it can have adverse long-term consequences for communal functionality and individual flourishing.

The researchers argue that a better understanding of the biocultural mainsprings of altruism could be of crucial importance in our era of reemerging authoritarianism and increasing migration. They believe that it is important for development and immigration policies to align our knowledge of human nature with insights into the workings of cultural legacies.

Overall, the study provides valuable insights into the complex interplay of culture, memory, and altruistic practices, and suggests that by understanding the biocultural roots of altruism, we can develop policies that promote social cohesion and well-being.