Values, Motivation, and Prosocial Behaviour

Ethics and prosocial behaviour

Our values tend to refer to the beliefs we have that certain situations and actions are desirable.  While there are an increasing number of psychological study of human values becoming available, it is still not a well-developed subject area, and there are many conflicting theories of human values and their corresponding virtues.

Our basic human values might be identified by considering the most basic needs of human beings, their biological needs, the need to coordinate our actions with others, and the need of groups to survive and flourish. While values differ in importance, when individual ratings of basic values are averaged over all members of a society, the priority order is more or less the same in all societies.

Values that motivate entrepreneurs

When entrepreneurs take action, it usually involves a range of values, and how they act depends upon which values they see as being most important (Schwartz,2014).  External factors like rewards or praise can have positive or negative effects on entrepreneurs’ motivation by impacting on their sense of autonomy and competence.  Interestingly, studies have shown that imposed goal setting increases unethical behaviour and risk-taking, narrows focus, and decreases cooperation and intrinsic motivation (Alispahic,2013).

Intrinsic motivation is inherent in activities that are performed for their own sake. These activities are usually freely chosen and linked to the present moment. When our goals are intrinsically motivated goals, it tends to lead to better long-term outcomes because it satisfies our need for autonomy and competence, creating more positive states, which then reinforces the positive feedback loop, increasing the likelihood that we’ll repeat those behaviours (Ryan & Deci,2019).

Prosocial values and behaviours and the entrepreneur

Prosocial values and behaviours are underpinned by the intention to benefit others or society, and to obey rules or to behave in ways that are socially accepted (Bierhoff,2002).  A systematic review and meta-analysis of the link between mindfulness and prosocial behaviour found that mindfulness enhanced prosocial behaviours (Donald et al, 2018), however a later study found that while mindfulness only increases prosocial behaviours in people who see themselves as interdependent, for those with more independent mindsets, mindfulness decreases prosocial behaviour (Poulin et al, 2021).

Is our capacity for prosocial behaviour diminishing?

The way in which we understand the psychology of morality has changed a great deal as we have developed a better understanding of how our emotions and reasoning impact upon one another.  While human beings have evolved to both co-operate and compete, it can be argued that our capacity for altruistic, empathic and prosocial behaviour may be diminishing in contemporary society, where market economics encourage individualistic traits. My research aims to answer the question “Can prosocial values and behaviour be developed in entrepreneurs?”

Alispahic, S., (2013). Motivational Function of Plans and Goals. PsychOpenGOLD October 2013.

Bierhoff, H. W. (2002) Prosocial Behaviour. Psychology Press, UK

Donald, J.N. Sahdra, B.K. & Van Zanden, N ….(2018) . Does your mindfulness benefit others? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the link between mindfulness and prosocial behaviour. British Journal of Psychology, Volume 110, Issue 1 Pages 101-125

Poulin, M., Ministero, L., Gabriel, S., Morrison, C., & Naidu, E. (2021). Minding your own business? Mindfulness decreases prosocial behaviour for those with independent self-construals. PsyArXiv; 2021.

DOI: 10.31234/

Ryan, R.M., & Deci, E.L. (2019.Chapter Four – Brick by Brick: The Origins, Development, and Future of Self-Determination Theory, Editor(s): Andrew J. Elliot, Advances in Motivation Science, Elsevier, Volume 6, 2019, Pages 111-156,

Schwartz SH. Rethinking the Concept and Measurement of Societal Culture in Light of Empirical Findings. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. 2014;45(1):5-13.