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The Role Of Volunteering In Human Evolution

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Volunteering is something that has been around for many centuries , Homo sapions idaltu is an extinct subspecies of Homo sapiens that lived approximately 160,000 and is the first recognition of man . Despite the fact there is no evidence to prove this we can assume he was the first man to feel sympathy towards another man , this only highlights that care is something that has been rooted into our DNA. Volunteering can be seen as informal or formal , informal volunteering is the process of help being given to individuals that has not been arranged by an organization it can refer to a wide variety of mutual help. Including how individuals interact with the community for example checking on a neighbour who is elderly. This is typically the most common type of volunteering but is also the least studied , formal volunteering means activities that have been organised though a type of organisation this could either be” for the reason that small community group consisting entirely of volunteers, or through major organisations such as Health Trusts or national voluntary organisations” . Nevertheless the psychological motives for helping behaviour for informal and formal volunteering are related ,

Volunteering is the act of giving time freely at the benefit of another person, organisation or group .Volunteering is not something that is limited to a particular country , it is an activity that can be found in many parts of the world (Curtis, Grabb, & Baer, 1992). Volunteering is something that happens in all of the sectors, religion , education ,health care etc. within these sectors volunteering provides many different services such as companionship to the lonely , health care for the sick , befriending/mentoring , counselling , youth work etc. When reflecting on volunteerism and the remunerative nature it has it raises a number of questions , why do people volunteer ? How do people choose to volunteer with one cause over another ? Are just a few examples of this , however answers to these questions have been explained within the functionalist theory. The functional approach was developed by William James in 1890 , it focuses on the mental processes which involve consciousnesses (Gordon, 1995) in recent times it has been used to understand the motives behind volunteering as the main principle of functionalist theory is that even though different individuals can perform the same actions , the action may have a different value for a different individual.

According to Clary et al. (1998) there are six functions to volunteerism, the first function is value , value is linked to altruistic and humanitarian as it reefers to the concerns of the welfare for others and contributions to society (Clary & Miller, 1986). Katz’s (1960) states that the function of value is to allow individuals to present their primary values to others , additionally it suggest that volunteerism is influenced by the values of an individual welfare however volunteering is not only driven by those values it also helps individuals to keep true to their conception self by allowing them to convey the values and convictions they have within them through action. A study done by Anderson and Moore (1978) supports the function of values as over 70% of the participants supported “to help others “ as a motive for volunteering. (Anderson and Moore ,1978) the second function is understand this also ties into Katz’s (1960) knowledge function as well as Smith et al.’s (1956) object appraisal function , the understanding function explains how an indivials attitude can structure their understand of the world , a volunteers view of the world is structured by their desire to seek new information also volunteers display understanding of the world by utilising their skills and abilities in order to help those who need it. Gidron done a study in (1978) on young volunteers what he found supports this statement as he discovered that young volunteers saw volunteer as way to learn and enhance their self-development.(Gidron , 1978)

A third function is the career function , this is where the volunteering an individual is involved in is seen as a pathway for them to attain and develop newfound skills , obtain professional contacts , boost their curriculum vitae aiding them for a future job prospects . Beale (1984) agress with this as he states boosting student to volunteer will act as “stepping stone” to employment. The forth function is the social, this function provides volunteers with opportunities to be involved in actives that other people view as important, it is normal for volunteers to participate in services just to fit in or get along with their reference group since volunteerism is a normative or the social pressure to help is high. This can also be a conceptualization of the social function similar to Smith et al.’s (1956) social adjustive function where he states that a person’s attitude enables them to conform to existing social groups, likewise an individual’s craving to increase their social circles or joining new social groups can do the same.

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Function number five is the protective, where an individual may decide to volunteer in order so reduce the feeling of guilt because they are more futurate than others as well as that it can be a way for an individual to escape from their problems by helping others deal with there’s. Finally, the sixth function is enhancement, volunteering allows individuals to enhance their own self-esteem, seld0confidence and self-improvement. The enhancement function can be related to the protective function as they both focus on boosting the egos positive standing.

The functional approach is one of the best ways to explain why individuals choose to volunteer , as it introduces us to the idea that there is more than one motive for indivuals to want to volunteer additionally it expresses that although an indiduals maybe volunteering for the same cause , the motive behind every individual will be different.

When investing as to what best explains why people volunteer its important to look into theories of motivation as they enable you to see what is behind an individual’s actions. Frederick Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory (two factor theory) was first published in his book “The Motivation to work” in 1959 the main focus of the book was individuals at the workplace. However over the years the theory has been used to a explain a several physiological processes, Herzberg believes that in order for members in a team to give their best performance they have to engage, the theory states that individuals are influenced by two factors, the motivation factors and the hygiene factors .The motivation factors these are factors that motivate people to work harder such as recognition , achievements , growth , advancements and responsibility’s . And hygiene factors, these are essential factors for example salary, working conditions , company policies , status , supervision and job security . According to Herzberg the lack of hygiene factors will create demotivation however the presence of them is not substantial enough to induce demotivation.

This theory relates to volunteering as Herzberg believes that money isn’t the only driving factor that will make an individual have a good performance he is believes it’s a combination of all of the things previously stated , in addition to that an individual who is volunteering wants to feel safe in their environment and have some kind of reward and be involved in motivating task , this related as hygiene factors are ranked lower and they are more likely to be satisfied before the needs of motivating factors.

Sociologist see volunteering as a curtail factor in social phenomena that includes patterns of social relations plus interactions between individuals organisations and groups . Durkheim (1893) degree of integration of a society refers to social ties that combine members of society to each other, so because volunteering is voluntary and unpaid it represents a different type of social bond that differ from usual formal bonds that are seen. And is deemed as an essential form of social solidarity that is used to merge society together. Volunteering stands out within a society as it displays core human values such as compassion , altruism , concern for others , social responsibility , generosity and community spirit. (Wuthnow, 1991). Altruism is the code and moral practice of the concern of other individuals , According to Marc A. Musick and John Wilson “volunteering is a form of altruistic behaviour” with a goal of providing help to others without the prospect of a material reward. However altruism is not the best way to explain why people volunteer this is because is disregards that in society there are individuals who see themselves as onlookers to issues , making them less likely to get involved , this can cause pluralistic ignorance within society (Darley and Latane, 1968) helping us to understand why some individuals choose to volunteer and some don’t.


  1. Anderson,J.C.,&Moore,L.F.(1978).Themotivationtovolunteer.Journal of Voluntary Action Research, 7, 120–129.
  2. Beale, A. V. (1984). Exploring careers through volunteerism. The School Counselor, 32, 68–71.
  3. Clary, E. G., & Miller, J. (1986). Socialization and situational influences on sustained altruism. Child Development, 57, 1358–1369.
  4. Durkheim, É. 1893. De la division du travail social. Paris: Alcan. Eckstein, S. 2001. Community as gift-giving: collectivistic roots of volunteerism. American Sociological Review, 66(6), 829–51.
  5. Gordon, O. (1995). William james and functionalism. Retrieved from
  6. Katz, D. (1960). The functional approach to the study of attitudes. Public Opinion Quarterly, 24, 163-204
  7. Smith, M., Bruner, J., & White, R. (1956). Opinions and personality. New York: Wiley.
  8. Wuthnow, R. 1991. Acts of compassion. Princton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  9. Latane, B., & Darley, J. M. (1968). Group Inhibition of Bystander Intervention in Emergencies. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 10(3), 215–221
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