Prosocial Behavior and the Jamband Subculture

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The following report was written as part of my graduate studies in General Psychology. It has not been published anywhere but this site. Please contact me before reusing or reporting this paper.

Course: Social Psychology

Assignment: One-page thought paper on a chapter subject applied to the topic of my choice.

Prosocial Behavior and the Jamband Subculture

Prosocial behavior, otherwise known as helpful or even self-sacrificial behavior, can be both dispositional in the person and/or situational in the context (Fiske, 2014). In the context of groups, Fiske (2014) explains that a collective interest involves looking out for the welfare of the group over self- and other-interest, which can cause social dilemmas. However, research shows that collectivism, or the “motivation to benefit one’s own group as a whole,” is separable from self-interest and individual empathy (Fiske, 2014, p. 366). Fiske (2014) discusses three aspects of prosocial behavior in collectivisim: “group identity, group norms, and individual differences in group prosocial orientation” (p. 366).

Research shows that “[g]roup identity clearly facilitates helping” (Fiske, 2014, p. 367). People are more likely to be helpful when they are in positive moods about other people and their social environment, and they can be particularly motivated to help groups when their sense of group identity is reinforced (Fiske, 2014). Political opinions, external threat, mortality, and even the merging of two groups into one, all create a sense of we-ness that reflects the core social motive of belonging and facilitates helpfulness towards the group (Fiske, 2104). One example of prosocial group behavior is the jamband music subculture, a derivation of The Grateful Dead Deadheads, in which a core group of fans follow a band on tour and create their own communities; this group is known to support and watch out for each other as well as for injured and intoxicated fans who are not a part of the touring community (Hunt, 2012).

Group norms are the “unwritten rules for who should help whom, and when” (Fiske, 2014, p. 368). Researchers have a difficult time detecting the effects of norms on helpful behavior, and theorize that this may be due to the fact that prosocial norms vary across groups, situations, and their salience (Fiske, 2014). Norms may be salient in others’ behaviors or they may involve sanctions or rewards; there are descriptive norms (what people actually do) and injunctive norms (what people ought to do) (Fiske, 2014). Research shows that the more salient the norm in the environment, the more likely people are to be helpful; this is attributed to it being more cognitively accessible (Fiske, 2014). Group norms in the jamband subculture emphasize “kindness, generosity, tolerance, and acceptance” as well as “communal behaviors such as pooling resources, bartering, and trading (rather than selling) music;” all of which are salient in their everyday behavior (Hunt, 2010, p. 521).

“Peoples perceptions of social norms vary, depending on their own degree of prosocial orientation to others” (Fiske, 2014, p. 369). There are three general types of orientations: people can be cooperative (prosocial) and want enhanced joint outcomes; competitive and want self outcome to be the highest among others; or individualistic and simply want maximum self outcome (Fiske, 2014). Overall, however, people tend to expect others to agree with their own social values; the false consensus affect can cause people to create their own separate and self-fulfilling group dynamic (Fiske, 2014). This phenomena, along with personality orientation, are as important as situation in predicting prosocial behavior (Fiske, 2014). In the jamband subculture, members have been known to get a negative reaction to their prosocial behaviors of sharing resources and helping strangers; this is likely because, as some studies show, this behavior is not normally mainstream (Hunt, 2010). Competitive and individualistic individuals cannot easily identify with this subculture or its norms, if at all.

Research shows that “people develop a prosocial orientation from different patterns of social interaction as they are growing up” and it often results from secure attachments that require being open to other people (Fiske, 2014, p. 370). Fortunately, it also shows that people can become more prosocial as they get older as they realize the benefits of positive social processes (Fiske, 2014).


Fiske, S.T. (2014). Social Beings: Core Motives in Social Psychology. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. Inc.

Hunt, P. M. (2010). Are you kynd? conformity and deviance within the jamband subculture. Deviant Behavior, 31(6), 521-551. doi:

Hunt, P.M. (2012). Examining the Affective Meanings of Interaction settings in the Jamband Music Subculture. The Journal of Public and Professional Sociology, 4(1), 5. Retrieved from

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