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Chapter 9

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McGill University
PSYC 215
Donald Taylor

PSYC215 Chapter 9 Notes Definitions: Altruism: A motive to increase another’s welfare without conscious regard for one’s self-interest Social-exchange Theory: The theory that human interactions are transactions that aims to maximize one’s rewards and minimize one’s costs Egoism: A motive (supposedly underlying all behaviour) to increase one’s own welfare. The opposite of altruism, which aims to increase another’s welfare Reciprocity Norm: An expectation that people will help, not hurt, those who have helped them Social-responsibility Norm: An expectation that people will help those dependent upon them Kin Selection: The idea that evolution has selected altruism toward one’s close relatives to enhance the survival of mutually shared genes Empathy: The vicarious experience of another’s feeling; putting oneself in another’s shoes Bystander Effect: The finding that a person is less likely to provide help when there are other bystanders Door-in-the-face Technique: A strategy for gaining a concession. After someone first turns down a large request (the door-in-the-face), the same requester counteroffers with a more reasonable request Moral Exclusion: The perception of certain individuals or groups as outside the boundary within which one applies moral values and rules of fairness. Moral inclusion is regarding others as within one’s circle of moral concern Overjustification Effect: The result of bribing people to do what they already like doing; they may then see their action as externally controlled rather than intrinsically appealing Chapter Notes:  Altruism is selfishness in reverse. An altruistic person is concerned and helpful even when no benefits are offered or expected in return  Several theories of helping agree that in the long run, helping benefits the giver as well as the receiver. One explanation assumes that human interactions are guided by a “social economics.” We exchange not only material goods and money but also social goods – love, services, information, and status. In doing so, we use a “minimax” strategy – minimize costs, maximize rewards  Social-exchange theory does not contend that we consciously monitor costs and rewards, only that such considerations predict our behaviour  As if needing an excuse for their compassion, people will donate more money to a charity when offered a product, such as candy or candles. Even when they don’t want (and would never go buy) the product, it defines a social exchange  Rewards that motivate helping may be external or internal. o Offering someone a ride hoping to receive appreciation or friendship, the reward is external. We give to get. Thus, we are most eager to help someone attractive to us, someone whose approval we desire. o Internal rewards are those which helps increase our sense of self-worth such as donating blood or why people will do kindnesses for strangers whom they will never see again. The positive effect of helping on feelings of self-worth is one explanation for why so many people feel good after doing good  B.F. Skinner brought forth an interesting idea that the social-exchange theory imply that a helpful act is never truly altruistic – that we merely call it ‘altruistic’ when its rewards are inconspicuous? We credit people for their good deeds only when we can’t explain them. We attribute their behaviour to their inner dispositions only when we lack external explanations. When the external causes are obvious, we credit the causes, not the person  A weakness in social-exchange theory is that it easily degenerates into explaining-by-naming. Because we attempt to explain the true selfish motivation behind one’s compassionate act, egoism – the idea that self-interest motivates all behaviour – has fallen into disrepute among researchers  Egoism’s ultimate goal is to increase one’s own welfare; which differs from altruism, whose goal is to increase another’s welfare  The benefits of helping include internal self-rewards. Near someone in distress, we may feel distress. A woman’s scream outside your window will arouse and distress you. If you cannot reduce your arousal by interpreting the scream as a playful shriek, then you may investigate or give aid, thereby reducing your distress  Distress is not the only negative emotion we act to reduce. Throughout history, guilt has been a painful emotion, so painful that cultures found ways to relieve it through animal and human sacrifices, offerings of grain and money, penitent behaviour, confession, and denial  Through many experiments, the consistent findings have shown that people will do whatever can be done to expunge the guilt and restore their self-image  Our eagerness to do good after doing bad reflects both our need to reduce private guilt and likely to redeem ourselves with helpful behaviour when other people know about our misdeeds. But even when our guilt is private, we act to reduce it  All in all, gilt leads to much good. By motivating people to confess, apologize, help, and avoid repeated harm, it boosts sensitivity and sustains close relationships  The inner rewards of altruism – feeling good about oneself after donating blood or helping pick up someone’s dropped materials – can offset other negative moods as well. Thus when an adult is in a guilty, a sad, or an otherwise negative mood, a helpful deed (or any other mood improving experience) helps neutralize the bad feelings  The feel bad – do good effect occurs with people whose attention is on others, people for whom altruism is therefore rewarding. If not self-preoccupied by depression or grief, sad people are sensitive, helpful people  Happy people are helpful people. However, as the happiness/good mood wore off, helpfulness dropped  Why is it that sad people are sometimes extra helpful and that happy people are also helpful? This can be attributed to several factors at work: o Helping softens a bad mood and sustains a good mood. A positive mood is in turn, conducive to positive thoughts and positive self-esteem, which predispose us to positive behaviour. In a good mood, people are more likely to have positive thoughts and to have positive associations with being helpful. Positive thinkers are likely to be positive actors o We often help other snot because we think of the self-interest but rather because something tells us we ought to. This is because of social norms which prescribe proper behaviour, the oughts of our lives. Two social norms that motivate altruism include the reciprocity norm and the social-responsibility norm o The reciprocity norm is one universal moral code that says: “To those who help us, we should return help, not harm.” Reciprocity within social networks helps define the “social capital” – the supportive connections, information flow, trust, and cooperative actions – that keep a community healthy. Keeping an eye on each other’s home is a social capital o Reciprocity norm operates most effectively as people respond publicly to deeds earlier done to them. When people cannot reciprocate, they may feel threatened and demeaned by accepting aid. Thus, proud, high self-esteem people are often reluctant to seek help. Receiving unsolicited help can take one’s self-esteem down a notch. Studies show this can happen to beneficiaries of affirmative action, especially when affirmative action fails to affirm the person’s competence and chances for future success o With people who are clearly dependent and unable to reciprocate, another social norm motivates our helping. The belief that people should help those who need help, without regard to future exchanges, is the norm of social-responsibility. The norm motivates people to retrieve a dropped book for someone on crutches o In India, a relatively collectivist culture, people support the social-responsibility norm more strongly than in the individualist West. They voice an obligation to help even when the need is not life-threatening or the needy person is outside their family circle o Experiments show that even when helpers remain anonymous and have no expectation of any reward, they often help needy people. However, they usually apply the social- responsibility norm selectively to those whose need appears not to be due to their own negligence  In political conservatives, the norm seems to be: give people what they deserve. If they are victims of circumstances, like natural disaster, then by all means, be generous. If the individuals were just lazy or lack of foresight, then they should get what they deserve. Responses are thus closely tied to attributions, fairness does not require us to help; we say it’s the person’s own fault  If an attribution evokes sympathy, this in turns motivates helping  The third explanation of altruism comes from evolutionary theory. Genes that predispose individuals to selflessly promote strangers’ welfare would not survive in the evolutionary competition. Genetic selfishness should, however, predispose us toward two specific types of selfless or even self-sacrificial altruism: kin protection and reciprocity: o Our genes dispose us to care for relatives in whom they reside. Thus one form of self- sacrifice that would increase gene survival is devotion to one’s children o Although evolution favours altruism toward one’s children, children have less at stake in the survival of their parents’ genes. Thus, parents are generally more devoted to their children than their children are to them o Kin selection – favouritism toward those who share our genes – led J.B.S. Haldane to jest that while he would not give up his life for his brother, he would sacrifice himself for three brothers or for nine cousins. The point is not that we calculate genetic relatedness before helping but that nature programs us to care about close relatives o In evolutionary history genes were shared more with neighbours than with foreigners. This leads us to understand the order in who gets helped first: young before old, family before friends, neighbours before strangers. Helping stays close to home o Genetic self-interest also predicts reciprocity. An organism helps another because it expects help in return. The giver expects later to be the getter, whereas failure to reciprocate is punished (the cheat, the turncoat, and the traitor are universally despised) o Reciprocity works best in small, isolated groups, groups in which one will often see the people for whom one does favours o The answer to why nonreciprocal altruism towards strangers occurs is because of group selection. Groups of altruists survive better than groups of nonaltruists. While ants and bees demonstrate this act profusely, humans to a smaller extent, exhibit ingroup loyalty, by sacrificing to support “us” sometimes against “them” o Donald Campbell explains that human societies evolved ethical and religious rules that serve as breaks on the biological bias toward self-interest. Commandments like “love your neighbour” admonish us to balance self-concern with concern for the group, and so contribute to the survival of the group  Comparing theories of altruism: How is Altruism Explained? Theory Level of Explanation Mutual “Altruism” Intrinsic Altruism Social norms Sociological Reciprocity norm Social-responsibility norm Social exchange Psychological External rewards for Distress  Inner helping rewards for helping Evolutionary Biological Reciprocity Kin selection  Psychologists Daniel Batson theorizes that our willingness to help is influenced by both self- serving and selfless considerations. Distress over someone’s suffering motivates us to relieve our ups
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