Where you come from can determine how helpful you are. Cross cultural differences in pro-social behaviour can be due to different societies. For example, western cultures, such as the UK or USA, are individualistic and value independence rather than a reliance on others. However, many other non-Western cultures, such as Japan, Israel and India, are collectivist and as such live and walk together, sharing independence. Many attitudes are altered as a result of being from a collectivist or an individualist community.
For example, individualistic cultures have high levels of mobility and long distance communication, which lower the levels of community belongingness. However, collectivist cultures have lower levels of mobility, where individuals remain or return to the community they belong to, therefore increasing community belongingness. The role of responsibility also differs between the two cultures. Miller (1994) suggested that individualistic cultures have a much more option orientated perspective, whereas collectivist cultures have a duty based view of interpersonal responsibilities and assume a general obligation to respond to the needs of others.
However, individualistic cultures will perceive such a response as being dependent on the nature of relationships and the magnitude of need. Child raising strategies differ from culture to culture. Whiting and Whiting (1975) found that child raising strategies that involve children in family responsibilities, such as raising siblings and participating in daily chores produce more helpful children. The above happens in collectivist cultures. However, in individualistic cultures, children would expect to be paid for such contributions.
However, it is too simplistic to generalize all Westernised cultures as many studies such as Liebrand et al (1985) found a higher level of altruism in the USA than in more socialist countries, suggesting that the theory is far too simplistic and can vary within the Westernised countries, and altruism is not the same for all of them. However, L’Armand et al (1975) showed that participants in India were less helping than participants in America, going against what the theory originally states.
Also, the theory does not take in to account same race helping, as L’Armand showed in the above study. It was found that Indians belonging to the Brahim caste showed more help to other Brahims. Finally, assigning responsibility differs. In Western societies, deviant behaviour is blamed on the individual, and other individuals are less willing to help the people as they see their problem as self inflicted. However, in non-western cultures, bad behaviour is not blamed on the individual, but on society as a whole.
Therefore, overall, the theory suggests that collectivist cultures tend to be more helpful than individualistic ones. However, there are other reasons for this, such as tradition. Yang (1994) reported that in China, doing favours for people cultivates social relationships. Favours are return through tradition and principle, and thus social relationships are deepened. However, in contrast, O’shea (1976) claims that in some cultures, foreigners are treated differently from locals as they are seen as more important.