The conspicuous performance of voluntary acts to serve others despite the potential costs borne by oneself.
Donating one’s time and efforts to assist others or advance a cause, without any expectation of recompense, is at the heart of volunteerism. Research in much of social psychology has unearthed a range of the proximal factors that predict voluntary behaviors on the part of individuals, including mood, number, and type of observers or bystanders, personality traits, degree of empathy, and latent mood (Penner and Finkelstein 1998). While these factors go a long way to explaining the situational contingencies of how volunteerism arises in particular contexts, it is useful to consider whether there is a meta-theoretical account of why behavioral patterns consistent with volunteerism would arise in the first place.
Costly signaling theory (CST) provides such an account. It is predicated on...