People may address societal problems either by engaging in collective action, aiming to change underlying structural systems, or by engaging in prosocial behaviours, aiming to help those affected. In this Perspective, we draw on construal level theory and regulatory scope theory to understand how people might choose to mitigate social problems. Specifically, we propose that people pursue solutions that alleviate the suffering of those affected by the problem (consequence-focused solutions) when they focus on lower-level or more psychologically proximal features and that they pursue solutions that address the underlying causes of the problem (cause-focused solutions) when they focus on higher-level or more psychologically distant features. Thus, people’s preferences for different solutions might be explained by understanding how people view the underlying problem. This framework explains the different ways people seek to address perceived social problems, providing insights into when and why people devote their time and energy to pursuing different forms of social action.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychology (miscellaneous)
- Clinical Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology