PSYC 215 Chapter Notes - Chapter 14: Wesley Autrey, Empathic Concern, Paul Rusesabagina
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Chapter 14: Altruism and Cooperation
Altruism: Unselfish behavior that benefits others without regard to consequences for the self.
Ex.1. Wesley Autrey jumped on the New York subway tracks to save a fallen man in the face of
an oncoming train. (risked his life for strangers in need)
Ex.2. Paul Rusesabagina, acting manager of the Mille Collines Hotel in Rwanda, saved over a
thousand people from massacre by sheltering them at the hotel, bribing the interahamwe, and
appealing to influential contacts.
Empathic Concern: A case of pure altruism?
1. Selfish motive: Social Rewards motive.
-Social rewards: benefits like praise, positive attention, tangible rewards, honors, and gratitude
that may be gained from helping others.
-altruistic action earns people the esteem and respect of others. (praise, awards, and even
mentions in the media)
2. Second Selfish motive: Personal distress
-Personal distress: a motive for helping those in distress that may arise from a need to reduce our
-people are motivated to help others in need in order to reduce their own distress since they
respond to others’ distress with our own distress
Ex. When we see someone crying, experiencing physical pain, or stuck in an embarrassing
situation, we usually experience our own feelings of personal distress. Neuroscientifically, when
we watch someone else experience pain, the pain regions of the brain are activated.
-Most direct way to alleviate our own personal distress is to reduce the distress of the other
3. Selfless, other-oriented altruism: Empathic concern
-Empathic concern: identifying with another person- feeling and understanding what that person
is experiencing- accompanied by the intention to help the person in need.
- when we encounter another person in need, we imagine what that person must be experiencing.
It results in an empathic state of concern, which motivates us to help that person even at our
Ex. Wesley Autrey, and Paul Rusesabagina
Empathy vs. personal distress
-first study: the selfish motive of reducing personal distress against the motive of empathic
concern by allowing participants to escape their aversive arousal by simply leaving the
experiment. If participants still helped, they must have been motivated by empathic concern.
participants who mostly felt distress and could escape the situation took few shocks on behalf
of the confederate.
Participants who felt empathic concern, volunteered to take more shocks even when they
could simply leave the study.
empathic concern was not manipulated; Selection bias (high-empathy participants might
just be more helpful in general for reasons other than a selfless response to the
confederate in need)
the experimenter knew how the participant acted, so a social rewards account of this
study cannot be ruled out.
-second study: asked female participants to form an impression of Janet based on some
information that person wrote while seated in another cubicle.
In low-empathy condition, participant was told to be as objective as possible when reading the
notes, to concentrate on the facts at hand.
In high-empathy condition, the participant was told to imagine as vividly as possible how the
other person felt.
-then the experimenter gave the participant a form that described another long-term relationship
study and asked whether the participant would like to spend time with Janet.
In low-social evaluation, Janet’s notes were delivered in sealed envelopes and not read or
known by the experimenter. Participants indicated how much time she would spend with Janet
on a form that she enclosed in a sealed envelope.
In high-social evaluation, the experimenter and the participant read Janet’s notes and Janet and
the experimenter were privy to the participant’s indication of how much time she would spend
Even in anonymous condition where no social reward can be gained, empathy promotes
Physiological indicators of empathy
-final study: assessing whether some kind of selfless state motivates altruistic behavior.
-showed a videotape of a woman and her children who had recently been in an accident to
second graders, fifth graders, or college students and their facial expressions were recorded, and
heart rate was measured continuously.
students who felt sympathy and concern showed eyebrows that were pulled in and upward, a
concerned gaze, and heart rate deceleration. More likely to help
students who reported distress showed a pained wince in the face and heart rate acceleration.
Less likely to help
Empathic concern produces more helping behavior than distress.
*Are young adults today less empathetic than those a generation ago?
-people who often feel high levels of empathic concern tend to be interested in other people; they
have more positive attitudes toward other species, and they act in more prosocial ways (give
money to homeless people, carry someone’s belongings, volunteer for charity, and return
-College students’ reports of how much empathy they feel for other people have dropped
significantly over the last 30 years.
Empathic concern and volunteerism
-Volunteerism: nonmonetary assistance an individual regularly provides to another person or
group with no expectation of compensation.
-motives for volunteerism: a desire for social rewards, a desire to reduce personal distress, and
self-reports of feelings of empathic concern.
-volunteerism is good for your health. It increases longevity.
Ex. Interviews of 100 rescuers from World War II, who risked their lives to save Jews during the
Nazi Holocaust. Rescuers reported that altruism and compassion were a central theme in their
homes. Empathic concern is a powerful force for good in human societies and can be passed
from parents to children.
Altruism: unselfish behavior that benefits others without regard to consequences for the self. Wesley autrey jumped on the new york subway tracks to save a fallen man in the face of an oncoming train. (risked his life for strangers in need) Paul rusesabagina, acting manager of the mille collines hotel in rwanda, saved over a thousand people from massacre by sheltering them at the hotel, bribing the interahamwe, and appealing to influential contacts. Empathic concern: a case of pure altruism: selfish motive: social rewards motive. Social rewards: benefits like praise, positive attention, tangible rewards, honors, and gratitude that may be gained from helping others. Altruistic action earns people the esteem and respect of others. (praise, awards, and even mentions in the media: second selfish motive: personal distress. Personal distress: a motive for helping those in distress that may arise from a need to reduce our own distress.