PSYC 215 Chapter Notes - Chapter 14: Empathic Concern, Prefrontal Cortex, Pluralistic Ignorance

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Published on 13 Apr 2013
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Chapter 14
-Altruism: unselfish behavior that benefits others without regard to consequences for the self.
-Humans are prone to feelings of compassion that allow us to act in such altruistic ways, although
sometimes we don't act on these feelings.
-When do we act altruistically?
Empathic Concern: A Case of Pure Altruism?
-In any altruistic actions, several motives are likely to be in play. Two of these motives are essentially
selfish (egoistic) and the third is more purely oriented toward unselfishly benefiting another person.
-The first selfish motive is the social rewards motive: Benefits like praise, positive attention,
tangible rewards, honors and gratitude that may be gained from helping others.
-The second is the personal distress motive: A motive for helping those in distress that may arise
from a need to reduce our own distress. Ex: people feel pain when they see others in pain.
-Lastly, there is empathic concern: Identifying with another person-feeling and understanding
what that person in experiencing-accompanied by the intention to help the person in need. When
we see someone in pain, we not only experience our own pain but we also imagine what that
person must be experiencing.
Empathy versus Personal Distress
-Experiments set up so that egoistic motives would lead to little helping behavior. The participant is also
led to empathize with the person in need.
-Those participants who mostly felt distress and could escape the situation took few shocks on behalf of
the confederate. Those who felt empathic concern, however, volunteered to take more shocks even
when they could simply leave the study.
-Concerns with study: empathic concern was not manipulated, but instead the researchers identified
empathetic participants according to their self reports which could have led to selection bias. Also, the
experimenter knew how the participant acted, so a social rewards account of this study cannot be ruled
out. This notion motivated Batson's next study.
Anonymous Altruism
-Female participants had to form an impression of another person based on some information that
person wrote while seated in another cubicle.
-Empathetic concern was manipulated. In low empathy, the participant was told to be as objective as
possible, and in high empathy the participant was asked to vividly imagine how the other person felt.
-Participants in the high empathy condition volunteered to spend more time with the person they were
judging, even when no one would know of their action.
Physiological Indicators of Empathy
-AS Batson supposes, some kind of selfless state motivates altruistic behavior. Strong evidence for this
would be to show that empathetic concern has a distinct physiological signature that predicts whether a
person will act altruistically.
-In the experiment where young students watched a classmates car accident, students who felt
sympathy and concern in response to the victims showed eyebrows that were pulled in and upward, a
concerned gaze, and a heart rate deceleration (opposite to physiological response of elevated heart rate
in fight or flight scenarios). These people were more likely to help
-Participants who reported distress while watching the video showed a pained winced face and heart
rate acceleration, and they were less likely to help.
Empathic Concern and Volunteerism
-Volunteerism: Nonmonetary assistance an individual regularly provides to another person or group
with no expectation of compensation.
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Document Summary

Altruism: unselfish behavior that benefits others without regard to consequences for the self. Humans are prone to feelings of compassion that allow us to act in such altruistic ways, although sometimes we don"t act on these feelings. In any altruistic actions, several motives are likely to be in play. Two of these motives are essentially selfish (egoistic) and the third is more purely oriented toward unselfishly benefiting another person. The first selfish motive is the social rewards motive: benefits like praise, positive attention, tangible rewards, honors and gratitude that may be gained from helping others. The second is the personal distress motive: a motive for helping those in distress that may arise from a need to reduce our own distress. Ex: people feel pain when they see others in pain. Lastly, there is empathic concern: identifying with another person-feeling and understanding what that person in experiencing-accompanied by the intention to help the person in need.

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