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Development of Prosocial Motivations with Gustavo Carlo

Dr. Gustavo Carlo is the Millsap Endowed Professor of Diversity and Multicultural Studies in the Department of Human Development and Family Science at the University of Missouri. He is also the director and co-director of two centers there: The Center for Family Policy and Research and the Center for Children and Families Across Cultures. In 2017, he was named a University of Missouri Top Achiever and he has received numerous awards for his excellence in mentorship. Dr. Carlo’s research concerns prosocial and moral development, and how cultural variables are related to that development. In particular he’s researched positive development among Latinx youth. In this episode, we discuss different types of prosociality, and which cultural features are associated with developing different prosocial motivations.

APA Citation: Cazzell, A. R. (Host). (2019, September 17). Development of Prosocial Motivations with Gustavo Carlo [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from


NOTE: This transcript was generated automatically. Please excuse typos and errors.

Amber Cazzell: 00:01:26 Hi everyone. I'm here with Gustavo Carlo and Gustavo Carlo is actually my academic grandfather of sorts. He's my dissertation chair's dissertation chair. So it's a lot of fun to be here with him today and he does a lot of work in prosocial development and prosocial is a word that psychologists use a lot but isn't necessarily how most people talk about it on the streets. And so prosocial development just generally refers to behaviors that benefit others and to not necessarily the self or only the self. So we'll dive into the nuances of prosocial behavior a little bit later on. But for now that's the backdrop. And Gus and I were discussing, his background's a little bit and I have to back him up now. I apologize. You're going to have to repeat some of some of the things that you were telling me, but could you tell me a little bit about what inspired your interest in pro social behavior?

Gustavo Carlo: 00:02:32 Sure. and thank you very much for inviting me to do this with you. I think it's going to be a lot of fun. Yeah, so I, I guess we were talking a little bit about how I first got interested in this area and you know, I was sort of a a lost little undergraduate student at Florida international university in and and I was, I happened to have taken a course from Bill Kurtines, who I didn't know at the time, but he was in fact a prominent moral developmental scholar. And one day he asked in class, he asked if anybody was interested in volunteering to do some research. So I kind of like meekly raised my hand and I had no idea what research was or what kind of research you did.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:03:36 But I raised my hand and he told me to stop by his office one day, so I did. And I thought he was going to talk to me about what research he did and everything, but basically that first time he just gave me a book. We're actually a couple of books by existential philosophers Camus. And Kafka and Sarte and he said, read these little books and then when you're done, come back and talk to me. And so of course that was also my first time I was ever exposed to reading original works of existential philosophers. And these books were turned out to be quite fascinating to me. Which I found kind of surprising cause I didn't think I was really all that interested in loss of fee. So I read them, I came back to his office, I was really excited to talk about the books with him and he basically said, okay, so did you read the books?

Gustavo Carlo: 00:04:42 I said, yes. I said, fine, thank you. Let me have them. I'll put them back on my shelf. And he said, come to our lab next week and I will explain to you what we do. So we didn't end up talking about any of those sorts of philosophical issues that were raised in those books. And later on I came to realize that in fact the reason I found those books to be interesting is because in those books those stories, the characters, the protagonists are actually faced with moral dilemmas. And I think it was his way of sort of just seeing to what extent I'm interested in morality and umou know, the issues of morality. And, mo we never actually got to ever talk about those books, which is really a shame because I still find those ideas and those stories to be fascinating and interesting. But nonetheless, that was my entrance into this whole area of moral development.

Amber Cazzell: 00:05:46 So I had mentioned that pro social behavior is kind of a large umbrella term and people disagree about exactly what types of prosocial behavior exists and which ones are more important. Could you give me a little bit of a backdrop of what those different types of prosocial behaviors are and then specifically which types your interested in studying.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:06:17 Okay. let's see. Well I'm going to give you a little back drop on the history of this study of prosocial behaviors a little bit. Cause I think that will probably help everybody get grounded in why we're doing what we're doing now. Great. So some of the early work was systematic work was the work by social psychologist bid lat ne John Darley. Who were interested in understanding why people helped or didn't help when someone was in an emergency situation. When somebody was in a no dire situation. And some of that was okay based on there was some national media stories about for example, what's referred to as the kitty Genovese case. Kitty Genovese was a woman who lived in New York who was stabbed in broad daylight and in front of other observers, neighborhood people who lived in the neighborhood.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:07:36 And nobody apparently went to helper. And the, the perpetrator actually left and came back and then stabbed her again until she died. And so this made national headline news. This was in the 1960s, I don't remember the exact year. Mid sixties, 65. Anyway and big Latin and Darley embarked on a series of studies to try to understand why people didn't help kitty Genovese or someone like a kitty Genovese and a similar kind of emergency situation. But they focused on trying to understand situational factors. So they were looking at things like you know, and for example, they found that the more people actually see somebody who's seems to be in need, the less likely you see people helping. And so there's, there's you know, they talked about really interesting sorts of things like diffusion of responsibility that, that in those large, in those situations where there's a number of people watching, somebody being hurt people seem to have a tendency to rationalize and believe that someone else is going to help, or somebody else has already, you know, called the cops or whatever.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:09:11 Anyway so those were the a number of studies conducted in the sixties and seventies. And of course even after that, but those were the sort of the first major studies on looking at helping behaviors. But it was from a social, psychological perspective. I think you, we alluded to this earlier, but you know, one of the things about Kohlberg's approach was that he was mostly interested in understanding what I, what you could refer to as negative moralities, sort of the negative side of moral development. So understanding, you know why people break the law or you know, why they cheat or steal or whatever w why they're dishonest. But Carol Gilligan brought up the idea that morality is not just about those kinds of negative situations, but that in fact, morality also includes the sort of positive side to it, which involves issues of caring for others, issues of maintaining interpersonal positive interpersonal relationships with others.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:10:50 Sort of a care oriented sort of idea of morality. And of course, part of her argument was that in general, women tend to be more moved by those sorts of issues relatively more so than, than, than men. We won't get into some of the debates regarding that, but, but the, the big, the major point was that that Kohlberg's theory really for the most part ignored or, or minimize issues of caring and interpersonal relationships. At the same, at about the same time this other prominent scholar Martin Hoffman had been developing a theory of empathy development and, and also emphasizing the role of parents in children's moral development. And of course one of the tenants of that work was that empathy was a primary motivator of prosocial behaviors.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:12:00 So so a number of people, and especially in the 1980s and especially Nancy Eisenberg and her colleagues started conducting a series of studies aimed at understanding the predictors, the correlates, what's related to what are the influences of prosocial behaviors. There was also a lot of work is still going on in the social psychology field. There was one prominent researcher, Dan Batson who did a number of studies and his take or his argument was that there are prosocial behaviors, which as you said, are actions that benefit other people. But that there are other types of prosocial behaviors. And one of the most interesting forms of prosocial behaviors is this idea of altruistic behaviors. And those kinds of actions are actions that are primarily intended to benefit others. So when you think about pro social behaviors, you can think about a whole range of actions.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:13:18 Everything from, you know, sharing and comforting somebody to saying something nice to somebody to holding the door open for someone to helping somebody carry their books. To more sophisticated types of prosocial behaviors like behaviors that involve a cost to the self. Like if somebody is, you know, in a, in an emergency situation, you know, you might think about whether or not to help that person, even though you yourself might get injured by doing so, right? If you see if a boy or a girl sees another boy or girl getting bullied by somebody that's kind of in, you know, and you, and you decide to intervene, that's a very costly type of prosocial behavior because obviously, you know, you yourself might get hurt. Trying to help that kid. And then there are other sophisticated forms which involved things like donating money to charity or volunteering for charitable organizations, right?

Gustavo Carlo: 00:14:36 And some people might volunteer at the local library, but there might be others that do doctors without borders, right? That involve going off to some other country, possibly risking your own life or your own at a pretty high cost to yourself. There are forms of activism that, you know that can be considered prosocial behaviors. And of course, some of the more famous acts of prosocial behaviors that people have studied are, for example rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust or people that other scholars refer to as moral exemplars or care exemplars. These are people who have done you know, who have gone above and beyond what we would normally expect somebody to, to, to do in order to help somebody. In extreme situations, these may be heroic acts of courage, right? If we think about the nine one one attacks, for example, you know, all those firemen and police men and maybe other people who actually tried to run back into the towers.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:16:00 And, and help other people's get out. Right. and and it's important to say right now, I think at the outset that, you know, sometimes we think, Oh, Whoa, but so Ironman, that's their job. They get paid for it. Well, yeah, but keep in mind that first of all, firemen don't get paid very much. Secondly, it's still, you know, you volunteer to become a fire man or policeman or a civil you know, civil servant. And you know, and, and most people have other choices. I mean, you can choose not to pursue that career and do something else. The same with nurses and doctors and people like that. So, so one thing I always like to talk to students about when I talk about prosocial behaviors and now touristic behaviors is that even though the first thing that comes to mind sometimes is, you know, these sort of extremely admirable acts of courage and heroism in fact, altruistic behaviors in my, from my point of view, actually are occurring every day by, you know, thousands of people every day.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:17:30 It's unfortunate, you know, unfortunately, or it's just the case that most of the time we don't, they don't get recognized for that. Those really incredible acts of pro social behaviors of altruism. But all of that sort of work, work on emergency situations and how people help or note don't help work by Batson and others looking at altruistic, prosocial behaviors. And then the work that that Nancy Eisenberg and others had done looking at comforting behaviors and more perhaps everyday forms of prosocial behaviors. All of that sort of work made me think about the fact that to me all of the challenges of prosocial behaviors are quite distinct. They're quite different. And so what predicts somebody that might be willing to comfort somebody who's crying and in distress might not be the same factors that predict somebody willing to, you know a kid willing to intervene and, and try to protect a another kid from being a bully victim, victimized as, as a bully.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:18:59 Or what predicts whether or not you opened the, you hold the door open for somebody or you let somebody cut mine in a long line or something like that. Those things are quite different. And so that's where we're at right now. I think that that's one of the things that we've sort of made more explicit and it's not, it's not a novel thing. It's not, you know, like some genius sort of idea is just that. Now I think we're starting to study prosocial behaviors in a much more nuanced manner, in a manner by which we can now get a better sense of what are the things that predict and influence some kids to develop these sort of altruism tendencies, other kids to develop these tendencies to help other people when they're emotionally distressed or when they're in an emergency situation or you know, why do some people help tend to help, but only when, when other people notice that they help, you know, with versus anonymous helpers. Those are all very, we're finding that all those situations are very different. And and and, and, and that you can actually talk about individual differences in these kinds of tendons, different prosocial behavior tendencies.

Amber Cazzell: 00:20:30 Interesting. So it sounds like kind of the debate that was raging between like Batson with empathy induced altruism and then the other scholars saying that altruism is always self in some way. It sounds like your stance on sort of that debate is that both types of altruism occur and there's going to be different interpersonal tendencies toward each of those types and different predictors of it.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:21:03 Yes, absolutely. Okay. Yeah, and that's a very important distinction by the way, because we can distinguish these different kinds of helping by situational factors, contextual factors but we can also distinguish different kinds of helping based on the different underlying motives. Yeah. So some motives are egoistic oriented, selfish, which by the way, of course, that means that not all prosocial behaviors are necessarily desirable. Right. but well, I mean, so you know, somebody could do something nice for somebody else, but they may do so in order to gain their trust so that later on maybe take advantage of that person. So initially, or at least that, that initial moment it, it looks like a pro social behavior. It looks like the person is a very helpful and generous person. But you know, maybe their true colors are revealed later, right? Because because prosocial behaviors by the rear, I mean they're really important.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:22:30 Pro social behaviors are really the foundation for for example, for how we develop a relationships with other people. Right? we think about marriages for example, and I, I'm not an marital expert expert on marriage, but I think we would all probably agree that if we see a marital couple don't engage in a lot of prosocial behaviors towards each other, it's probably not a very good quality marital relationship. Right. How is it that we make friends with someone? A lot of times we make friends with someone by doing something nice for that person, then that person might reciprocate and do something nice to you. And over time then that might develop into a friendship, right. And intimate relationships in the same way. Maintenance. So those relationships is the essence of it is really these sort of reciprocated pro-social acts one another.

Amber Cazzell: 00:23:39 Yeah, I think it's, I think it's particularly fascinating that your work layers on top of all of this, this cultural element, which we haven't even gotten to yet. So what, what peaked your interest in incorporating culture into the picture as an element that was relevant to these different types of prosociality and how they might become manifest?

Gustavo Carlo: 00:24:08 Well, aside from my crazy tendencies complicated I think, you know, once I started to think about moral development in this much more broader context and even for example, when you start to think about whether there are gender differences in pro social behaviors, which there are by the way, or gender differences and empathic expressions, which there are by the way, that is not as simple as we often times think. But we can talk about that some other time. But once you start thinking about those sorts of things, gender is a cultural, cultural there. It's a culture variable, right? I mean, boys and girls are socialized differently. In most societies, in most families even from birth they're treated boys and girls are treated differently, right? So those, those socialization processes, those ways in which we interact with a boy versus the way we interact with the girl and the way boys and girls are segregated in our society and all that, those, that's all manifestation of cultural processes.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:25:42 So I think it's, it's critical that we, that we start to think about the role of culture mechanisms, cultural related mechanisms. Parents for example, are quite we, we have, so I have a daughter for example, and we, each of us have ideas and beliefs about how to raise a child, right? And those beliefs and ideas probably were transmitted from your parents or your grandparents are from other, you know, previous caregivers. And also there were ideas that you may have internalized from observing, you know, the media and interacting with other people or watching other parents interact their kids. You know, when you see a parent like the kid throw a temper tantrum in the grocery store and we watch our parent and see how they react to their kid throwing a temper tantrum, you like, Ooh, I don't think I want to do that with my kid.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:26:59 Or Oh, that's a really good parent. That's pretty cool reaction. Right? So we, we gather all these ideas and beliefs about an attitudes about how to raise our children. And one of the things that we know is that parents, of course, are credibly important in terms of socializing their children's moral development. Parents serve as models a talk to their kids about moral issues. They expose them to certain experiences. You know, they, they let them watch certain movies that have certain moral messages. They don't let them watch other movies or other things that have different kinds of moral messages. They might take them to church where they hear about moral issues and moral values and moral behaviors. So it's, it's, you know, culture is embedded in, in every level of our existence. And and so it's just, I don't know, I think it's kind of it makes no sense to try and, you know, to act as if no kids are being raised morally in this soar sort of social vacuum, you know, like this cultural vacuum.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:28:30 And when you look at culture group differences, when you actually look at the evidence that exists out there, we actually do find some relatively reliable and consistent differences between different culture groups, ethnic groups, and racial groups nationalities in terms of, again, their beliefs or moral values, moral beliefs how they raised their children to be moral beings. And then we also see differences in moral behaviors. So biology is important, no doubt, let's not, you know, overlook that. Gene's temperament, all those sorts of things are incredibly important as well. Situational factors might be important, but then there are these cultural related mechanisms that are also influencing children's development, moral development.

Amber Cazzell: 00:29:28 So what are some of the most striking cultural mechanisms that you've found influence moral development?

Gustavo Carlo: 00:29:37 Yeah. Well, okay. So first of all, most of the work that has looked at culture related mechanisms associated with more development have been for the most part, most of it has been sort of centered on parenting practices, different sorts of parenting practices that you see in different ethnic racial groups. Or there's been research. A lot of the other research that we've done or some of the other research that we've done is focused on things like cultural values. So we look at certain values that seem to be more strongly endorsed in certain culture groups than in others. We've looked at things like culture related stressors, like discrimination experiences that ethnic minority, racial minority kids may be exposed to. We've looked at ethnic identity or the extent to which ethnic minority kids closely identify with their ethnic heritage or the extent to which they reject their ethnic heritage. Anyway, so those are some of the different, so some of the pro culture related processes are internal psychological processes that we try to assess in children themselves. And other mechanisms are more observable kinds of practices that parents engage in that send different messages, culture, specific messages to their kids. And we've done a lot of that work. W mostly with Latino, Latina populations, and they knew us.

Amber Cazzell: 00:31:59 And what have you kind of found, like what cultural, whether that's values or parenting practices, how, what are those value differences and parenting differences and what are the outcome differences as well for the children?

Gustavo Carlo: 00:32:16 So let's see. So where to start? So some of the work I think some of the more most interesting work has been, for example, research that we've conducted that I've conducted with other, with my colleagues. And one of my other mentors, by the way, George Knight, who I have collaborated with quite a bit. In one study for example, actually in a couple of studies we've showed, we showed that but U S Mexican parents parents of Mexican heritage in the U S who strongly endorse more strongly endorsed the the value of families them or families, Mo. Um, which is this like, you know, the extent to which you identify with the family unit, the extent to which you support the family, the, and you feel an obligation or a duty to the family that those parents who more strongly endorse that, that cultural value, we're more likely to engage in parenting practices.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:33:37 Yeah. And fostering that value in their kids. So they were more likely to encourage their kids to, for example, do things with the family instead of do things with their peers, you know, like, you know, be it, be home for dinner or attend a family event instead of, you know, going to the movies with your friends. Or that's those sorts of things. So they would engage in these sorts of practices that either implicitly or very explicitly placed the family in front of, you know, other, other issues. And then those kids that reported that their parents engaged in those kinds of practices were more likely to actually endorse families and values themselves. And finally, last but not least, those kids that more strongly endorsed families and values were actually then more pro-social and they would engage in higher levels of pro social behaviors that were typically and commonly exhibited in in the family in a, in a family context.

Amber Cazzell: 00:34:59 So were they more likely to display or to exhibit all types of prosocial behaviors or just a specific subset?

Gustavo Carlo: 00:35:06 Yeah, just the specific subset. So they were more likely to exhibit a, for example, they were more likely to comply when they're asked to help, like help around the house or help with chores. They're more likely to help in emotionally evocative situations. Somebody was crying or something like that, then you know, comforting them and they were also more likely to help in if there was any kind of crisis somebody was experiencing a crisis. But those, that families and value did not predict was not more likely to predict, for example, altruistic, helping, like helping with little expectation for any kind of self reward or return return. Yeah. So they were less likely to help.

Amber Cazzell: 00:36:01 Like a third party,

Gustavo Carlo: 00:36:03 They weren't less likely. They just, it just, it wasn't associated with the, those other kinds. Yeah. Anyway,

Amber Cazzell: 00:36:14 That's kind of neat. So endorsing some of the Latino, Latino values seem to increase certain types of prosociality or have no effect on the other types.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:36:27 Yeah. Actually, I'm sorry, I take it back now because you're right. We actually did find that family, those kids who endorsed formalism were less likely to engage in these helping behaviors that were primarily for D other people's benefit without any kind of self reward. And, and the reason I was a little confused it's because well first of all because it was kind of a surprise finding for us, but but secondly, because in another study we actually didn't find it to be related to that kind of helping. So in one study we found that to be related and another study, which was a longitudinal study, we found that it was negatively related. We think it might've been negatively related because we think that families in value probably and promotes more helping behaviors within the family unit, perhaps in group to in group members rather than to outgroup members.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:37:42 And so that's why we think that it, it's either not related to altruistic or sometimes it's negatively related. What's interesting though is that in that same study where we found that it was less likely to Oh, results in altruistic behaviors, those same kids who endorsed hu more strongly, who had a stronger sense of ethnic identity, that stronger center of ethnic identity was actually positively related, too altruistic, helping. And and so what were, what we, what we tried to explain and we, you know, we don't know for sure is that if we think about, you know, what are the components of ethnic identity. If you are more, if you view your sense of self as more closely aligned with your ethnic heritage, then that means that not only are you more likely to endorse, for example, families and values, but you're also more likely to endorse other, other traditional cultural values.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:38:58 And some of the other cultural values that Latinos usually strongly endorse are things like respect for others. And there's this one value that is termed BNN [inaudible] which translates into well educated but it's not related to formal education. It's related more to being a well a person of high moral character. So we think that ethnic identity in contrast to feminism might be positively associated with more altruistic helping because it encompasses a number of other values that we think might actually promote that more selflessly oriented kind of helping. Whereas family ism is a much more narrow value, which might be related more to helping people that are, that you view or you identify with as part of your own family unit.

Amber Cazzell: 00:40:08 So have you looked at any other facets of cultural differences? So that seems to be a focus on like how a stronger communal orientation might affect prosocial behaviors. Have you considered other types of value changes that might differ from the East and West for instance, or, or just other cultural groups in general?

Gustavo Carlo: 00:40:36 Well, we have looked at in one study we looked at Latino kids who differences between, between Latino kids who endorsed this sort of collectivist these collectivist values. And so collectivism is this broader sort of idea or notion that encompasses that group orientation that you referred to this sort of community orientation. Right. and that's something that researchers have documented, that there are differences between for example, white European American populations and Latino populations that Latinos seem to more strong, strongly endorsed this or have this collectivist orientation, whereas a European Americans tend to have a more individualistic orientation. And and that one study we found that that that maternal involvement or Latino mothers who were more involved in their, in rearing their Latino kids that, that seemed to foster more collectivist orientation in their kids, which in turn actually predicted more prosocial behaviors including altruistic behaviors. So having that orientation towards the broader community seems to be associated with that more selfless, a form of helping.

Amber Cazzell: 00:42:34 I, is there any

Gustavo Carlo: 00:42:38 Oh, by the way, it was negatively associated with a more selfish oriented form of helping or egoistic motive, motive, motivated form of helping which is helping in front of others in front of an audience. Because a lot of times when we help people, if we have a tendency to help people in front of others, a lot of times it's because we're trying to either elevate our own social status or perhaps gain the approval of other people. Sometimes we help other people to get their approval. Right. So that was negatively associated with that collectivist orientation.

Amber Cazzell: 00:43:18 So is the inverse of that, like, are there any instances in which like white Caucasian Americans having done other types of pro sociality to a larger degree? Or is that simply just that one effect of they seem to have these more selfishly motivated, prosocial behaviors down?

Gustavo Carlo: 00:43:46 Well so first of all, we actually had not conducted a lot of studies where we directly compare helping between white European Americans and Latino, Latina kids and adolescents.

Amber Cazzell: 00:44:10 Yeah, I mentioned that. I, I imagine those kinds of stuff you've probably ruffled a lot of feathers in your time. Just in general.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:44:16 I mean I probably haven't, well, maybe I have that. I mean part of it is actually has to do with my, in trying to understand these cultural specific mechanisms. So it makes it, when you're interested in things like ethnic identity or discrimination experiences and, and and specific values that might be more prevalent in certain populations than in others, then it makes it really difficult to directly compare across those different populations. Cause I mean, I'm certain there are white European American kids who experienced some kind of discrimination but probably not as much discrimination as the Latino, Latina kids. And so, so it makes it very difficult to directly compare these different models that explain behaviors within each of those groups. Right. So a lot of our work has focused, we've done what scholars refer to as within culture studies.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:45:44 We're trying to really understand differences between Latino kids and Latino kids who exhibit high levels of prosocial behaviors and those who exhibit low levels of prosocial behaviors. Doing those cross-cultural comparisons that a lot of other people like to do. That entails a very different kind of study design. And that's, those designs are really meant to answer for the most part in different kinds of questions. Like if you're interested in knowing whether one group exhibits more no higher levels of one kind of behavior than the other. That's kind of interesting but not as interesting to me as the, these other kinds of designs that we're, we're trying to really tease apart what are the factors that, that promote that most promote these prosocial behaviors in Latino and Latina kids for in white, European and American kids. So we do the same kinds of studies but looking at different kinds of variables, different factors with white European American samples.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:47:02 Now I did say that there are some exceptions. We have done a couple of cross cultural studies because people are interested in that. And what we have found is pretty interesting. In one study, in fact, I think it might be the only study that I can think of. We found that that Latino kids actually were more likely to engage or report that they engaged in these public forms of pro social behaviors than European American kids. European American kids were more likely to report out touristic behaviors than Latino kids, which is very, very interesting. But it actually aligns well with some of the other cross-cultural research that's been done by other people. Where for example, in a class that six culture study it was reported that kids from New York were more likely to help strangers than kids from Kenya. A collectivist oriented a society, but kids in Kenya were more likely to help a relatives than New York kids. Your kids were less likely to help relatives.

Amber Cazzell: 00:48:37 And do you think that that kind of a finding is contextual? So like depending on who you perceive to be the ingroup at a given time,

Gustavo Carlo: 00:48:49 No, actually you were warm, but we actually think that it is contextual, but it has to do with opportunities to help strangers versus family members.

Amber Cazzell: 00:48:59 Could you unpack that a little bit more?

Gustavo Carlo: 00:49:01 So it turns out that the kids in Kenya, for example, rarely interact with strangers. Okay. They, most of the time they interact with relatives and or members of their own community, but they're not strangers. Kids in New York actually interact more strangers than kids in Kenya. And we actually demonstrated that in that one study that we published where we compared kids from Kenya and kids from New York city. We demonstrated that part of the reason why we found those differences is not perhaps so much due to any sort of difference in their underlying motive to be more altruistic or apparently more altruistic by helping strangers, but rather it has to do more with, with their opportunities that they're faced with. Hmm. Remember that I mentioned that where we segregate in our society were we, we are much more structured in segregated,uand we are much more segregated along dimensions of gender.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:50:21 So boys and girls are, we separate them and you know, they're more likely to be separated and activities and events in school events and things like that and sports. And all that kind of stuff. But we're also age segregated more so than kids in Kenya. So kids in Kenya for example, they are more likely to be in mixed age groups and also mixed gender groups. There isn't as much segregation. So they really get to know each other pretty well. And it's a much more, obviously you can imagine that it's a more inclusive community thing. Kids who grow up in New York city. So yeah, those, those are important contextual factors that we should never overlook because it could mislead us into thinking that, Oh well, kids in Kenya are not altruistic, but actually we don't know. I mean, they may be, it's just that they don't really run into a lot of situations where they where they need to help a stranger. Yeah.

Amber Cazzell: 00:51:42 So what are some of your current projects and future directions of research? What do you kind of thinking about right now is the new challenge?

Gustavo Carlo: 00:51:55 Ah. Well so one of the newest endeavors that we've embarked on is and we've been trying to do this now for a few years, is we're really, really interested now in so for example, we, I mentioned that we'd done some research on discrimination experiences and how that impacts prosocial behaviors in Latino kids. And what we find is that those experiences in general undermine altruistic, healthy. And we think that's really unfortunate because we think that not only does that mean that these Latino kids and Latino kids are less oriented to towards the needs of others and and really more concerned about the cost of helping other people. But we think that that ultimately might result in greater separation of ethnic minority kids from majority kids that they may actually be more likely to help their own in group their own, you know family members and maybe other Latinos but maybe less likely to help you know, kids from majority society.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:53:25 And that would be really unfortunate because already being minority status, there's already some segregation of these communities and that can lead to more misunderstanding between different ethnic, racial groups, communities. So, so based on that sort of recent work that we've done, we've now shifted over to trying to understand what we call discriminatory, prosocial behaviors. So we're really trying to get at this idea of how do children develop prejudice and discrimination and these sort of ethnic racial biases and then how those racial attitudes and biases and ethnic biases and attitudes then predict helping out group members versus in group members. Right. and so we call it the extensibility project and the idea is really, you know obviously hopefully understanding how these things develop first, early on and then what are the sort of intervening mechanisms that might either exacerbate those biases and, and resulting in, you know and more discrimination in prosocial behaviors or the things that might actually mitigate and reduce those the detrimental consequences of of those biases.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:55:17 So we, we, you know, we've been, we have a couple of we've been working on some grant proposals to try to collect data on. We've already collected some pilot. And I'm doing this work with colleagues from Arizona State University and Nancy Eisenberg and Tracy Simrad and also with the former with another with colleagues. Jeff Lou from Texas A and M university and Debbie Lible from Lehigh university. So it's really exciting work. It's a little more challenging and but I think it's, it's obviously very critical work given the current challenges that we're facing in our society. Actually, this is a global phenomenon, you know, so there are challenges that many societies are facing right now in terms of really trying to reduce ethnic, racial conflict, misunderstandings and, and, and trying to encourage more positive social interactions between people. And this has very important moral implications, obviously, because I mean these, these are things that, these biases are things that kids can acquire early on and clearly can result in different moral outcomes, right? Either more hostility towards out-group members or less pro social behaviors towards those out-group members.

Amber Cazzell: 00:56:59 Yeah. I just want to ask you a couple more questions. I know we're starting to run a little long. It seems that as you've been talking, I've been picking up on just a sense that it seems you favor prosocial behaviors that are altruistic as being more favorable in some way. You haven't said this explicitly. And I'm wondering, I'm wondering if I'm correctly picking up on this or if that's a mischaracterization.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:57:36 Yeah, I'm, I mean, I, I probably haven't said enough about altruism and my thoughts on it for you to actually make reach a sort of accurate conclusion about my views on it. I, I I w I should state that even though in some ways we do sometimes characterize altruistic behaviors as more desirable and even more desirable than the equal stickly motivated forms of prosocial behaviors. That would be that, that would be I think a terrible mistake for me to, you know, give off that impression because there are circumstances, well, first of all, all prosocial behaviors are socially desirable, are certainly more socially desirable than then antisocial behaviors, right? So, you know, I mean, we placed this into proper broad perspective. I mean, if we're gonna to err one side of the equation, let's err on the side of promoting prosocial behaviors, even if those behaviors may be egoistically motivated because they do result by definition, they result in benefits for others.

Gustavo Carlo: 00:59:04 Okay. now it's also, so that's a B, we also need to keep in mind that for example, the public form of prosocial behavior that I mentioned where might engage in that behavior to gain someone else's approval, that's not necessarily inherently bad either, right? I mean, a kid that does that kind of behavior, you know, in front of his or her teacher to gain the teacher's approval, that's not inherently bad. Right? or the kid that does that, you know in front of his or her friends to, you know, to, to to try to fit in with that group. Right? That's not inherently bad. I mean, when it gets bad is if, if it goes in that other direction where you are doing that and you're simply doing that in order to take advantage of somebody later on. And at that point it actually then really no longer is prosocial behavior.

Gustavo Carlo: 01:00:18 It becomes, you know, aggressive or antisocial behavior. By the same token on the other side, without touristic, there are two, two things that we need to keep in mind. Number one altruistic behaviors can be very risky. And so you know, in fact there are some scholars that talk about pathological altruism and this idea that perhaps some people might engage in altruistic behaviors at the cost of their own, you know, personal health and well-being. And so that, that can be risky, very dangerous for that individual. And you know, and may not, you know, certainly wouldn't be adaptive for, for that person, even if, if the benefited other people. So there's gonna there may be a negative cost or price associated with engaging in altruistic behaviors. And that's not necessarily the kind of thing that as a parent, for example, I wouldn't want my kid to take unnecessary risks, right?

Gustavo Carlo: 01:01:37 I don't think any parent would want that. So, so, you know, so there are risks associated with that kind of, but the other thing to keep in mind about altruism is that all of these forms of prosocial behaviors, including altruistic, prosocial behaviors are not how do, how do I say they're not independent of one another? I mean, I'm, the best example that I often give is if we think about gang members, well, gang members are extremely altruistic, right? But they're altruistic to their own gang members, right? And they're extremely antisocial too. The outside world too. There, you know, to members, to outgroup members, people who are not members of their own group. In fact, you know, there will, some of them might be willing to risk their own lives to save their fellow gang members lives or you know, they might be willing to engage in very risky, dangerous behavior so you could consider gang members to be extremely altruistic.

Gustavo Carlo: 01:02:49 But again, we have to place it in proper context. That example tells us, informs us that that reminds us that, you know, kids can be, you know, we can have all kinds of different combinations of kids, kids who engage in frequently engage in altruistic behaviors and don't engage in other kinds of prosocial behaviors or they engage in other kinds of prosocial behaviors but not altruistic. You know, I mean, who are we or who is anyone to say that, you know, one form of altruism or prosocial behavior is necessarily or inherently better than any other form. Because I think we have to place it in proper context and and understand that that there may be a negative sort of side to engaging in any of these kinds of prosocial behaviors. Just as much as there might be a negative side to, you know, not engaging and some of these types of pro social behaviors.

Amber Cazzell: 01:03:59 So it sounds like you also have a slight flavor toward applying your work as well though in the real world, like you had mentioned, discrimination is a real problem and it can have bearing on pro social behaviors. So helped me kind of understand how you take some of your work and apply it. Are you sort of a pluralist that you would say, yeah, these all tie, all these types of prosocial behaviors have their place and, and that's good. Let's leave it alone. Or how do you sort of apply your findings of cultural effects while also not taking a firm stance on what sorts of prosocial behaviors are favorable or not favorable?

Gustavo Carlo: 01:05:04 Well, so I'll, you know, I'll start out by maybe backtracking a little bit. I think overall I view prosocial behaviors as generally favorable, right? You know, these instances that I raised, I, I, I see those instances as context dependent, you know, culture of dependent, person dependent and content dependent. Right? so in other words, there's always exceptions to do weird and that's really what I wanted to relay in terms of this little discussion that I had a little while ago is that we can always think of specific circumstances under which some of these behaviors may have negative connotations or more negative connotations or more favorable favorable connotations. But in general, as I said very early on, I don't want people to get the wrong impression relative to antisocial behaviors relative to kids. How is it that kids learn to be aggressive towards others? How is it that kids learn to you know, do illegal drugs, engage in vandalism, you know, cheat, mind, steal and all these other sorts of things.

Gustavo Carlo: 01:06:35 Relative to those sort of antisocial behaviors and tendencies in general, prosocial tendencies are favorable. I've used those things as favorable and again, I tend to err on that side rather than the other side. And we need to keep in mind that this old adage of applies here. The, the cliche that, you know, the absence of negative behavior does not equate to the presence of positive behavior. And you know, again, the gang member example is a good example of that, right? So you might observe antisocial behavior, but that doesn't necessarily mean that there is an absence of prosocial behaviors, right? They certainly have the capacity for prosocial behaviors, but it may be channeled in a particular manner or towards a particular group. So I think that's really important to keep in mind. So in terms of applied implications the fact that we have to consider context and culture and take those things into consideration means that the intervention approaches need to be culturally embed, embedded and contextually embedded. So for example, I, I mentioned you know the finding that kids in New York maybe less like less inclined to help family members and and more inclined to help strangers. Well, I think, you know implications, one sort of implication from that is that, you know, if we want to foster more prosocial behaviors in New York city kids that are targeted towards, you know, towards fellow family members, then we should think about programs or perhaps whether they be giving those kids more opportunities to help family members, you know, maybe parent education programs where we teach parents that, you know,

Gustavo Carlo: 01:08:53 Yeah, maybe, you know, from early on we should be assigning more chores or responsibilities to kids household chores and responsibilities and expect them to help around the house and help relatives and those, you know because if we don't engage in those kinds of practices that promote that family, those family kinds of oriented helping behaviors, then why should we expect them to be helpful to family members? Right? So you know, we, we, we've been doing some studies recently looking at the use of social parents who use, who frequently use social rewards versus material rewards. And we find that the parents who rely on, on giving kids gifts or money for helping, right? That those kids actually don't seem to exhibit altruistic behaviors later on. Right. And they tend to be a, actually, it also doesn't foster more empathy in those kids. Whereas the parents who use social rewards, when your kid does something good, they will just show their approval. They'll, you know, they'll give them a hug, they'll show some expression of love or praise. Those parents that use those kinds of practices,

Gustavo Carlo: 01:10:27 Are more likely to have kids who exhibit altruistic behaviors and they're more likely to have kids who exhibit a higher levels of empathic tendencies. Okay. So, so you can get into, I think, really interesting intervention programs and policy programs that have to do with these sorts of practices and mechanisms that some kids may have access to and other kids might not have access to. And and then hopefully, you know, in the end, these are all things that might help us promote more, you know, sort of harmony in system in our communities and in our societies in our families. You know, in our schools you know, more cooperation and and more, more pro sociality kindness towards each other.

Amber Cazzell: 01:11:30 Yeah. So it sounds like you're not thinking that these values need to be a trade off, that you can promote both types of pro sociality simultaneously as a parent or, or whatever given context. Is that, is that fair?

Gustavo Carlo: 01:11:56 Yeah, that's fair. That's absolutely fair. Yup.

Amber Cazzell: 01:11:58 So going back to like the parents who give their kids like material rewards, if parents give their kids material rewards and social rewards, is that related to both types of pro sociality in the future or the, do the material war rewards sort of undermine undermine the pro social development kind of like the over justification effect sort of thing?

Gustavo Carlo: 01:12:33 Well unfortunately the kinds of research that we do doesn't directly address that specific question because we're looking at what, what we're looking at and what we're finding is that when you look at both kinds of practices simultaneously we find that there are unique effects for each type, which suggests that perhaps, you know that the kids that turn out to be altruistic and empathic because their parents tend to use social rewards tend to do so over and above any material rewards that the parents might actually use. Right. and by the way, also we find that there is a modest positive correlation between both types of parents, both, both practices. So there's not complete overlaps. So it's not the case that there's a group that, you know, uses one, but not the other, but at the same time, they're not the same, you know, you, they're not both using equal levels of both kinds of practices. So in order to really answer your question, we will need to do study where we would actually categorize groups of parents into those different combinations. Right. Look at, look, look at parents that use both kinds of practices are almost equally well, you know, equally frequent and then you know, versus, and compare them to other parents that rarely use either practice and compared them to the groups that use one more than the other. Right. We haven't done that sort of research yet. Um but but nonetheless I think these findings are pretty interesting because they, they suggest that at least in terms of relative use of one versus the other and you still see the effects, the positive effects of the use of social rewards even in the presence of parents who use material rewards.

Amber Cazzell: 01:15:11 Yeah. Well, very cool. Gus, I really appreciate the conversation and your insights on moral development and how that has a bearing in parenting as well. So thank you very much.


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