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Chapter 14

PSYC 215 Chapter Notes - Chapter 14: Empathic Concern, Janet Arnold, Pluralistic Ignorance

Course Code
PSYC 215
John Lydon

of 12
Bona Kim PSYC215 Chapter Summary
CHAPTER 14 - Altruism and Cooperation (pgs. 530-559)
- The chapter opens with a story about a national hero named Wesley Autrey who saved a film
student from suffocating while having a seizure. Then, Autrey jumped in front of an oncoming
train to save the film student after he had fell onto the train tracks.
o This behavior is an example of altruism, which is unselfish behavior that benefits
others without regard to consequences for the self.
o As humans, we feel compassion, which leads us to helping others in need; even if it is
at our own cost.
o Yet, we don’t always act in an altruistic fashion because altruism can be inhibited by
self-preservation and fear of embarrassment (fear of overreacting to a situation, for
- People help others out of selfish motives, including to reduce their felt distress and to gain
social rewards such as praise, attention, or gratitude.
Empathic Concern: A Case of Pure Altruism?
- Dan Batson argues that there are 3 motives to any altruistic behavior:
- 1. Social reward motive (a selfish motive):
o Motivated by the social rewards that the altruistic person will gain by being altruistic,
such as praise and gratitude or even tangible rewards (a trophy, per se).
- 2. Personal distress motive (selfish):
o We help others in distress in order to reduce our own distress. This happens because
when we see others in pain, our pain-related brain regions will activate as well, so if
we help others, the pain related activity would cease.
- 3. Empathic concern (unselfish):
o Feeling and understanding what that person is experiencing and having the intention
to help the person in need.
Empathy versus Personal Distress
- How to differentiate between empathic motives and personal distress motive?
- Batson et al. (almost like Mailgram’s experiment)
o Participants told that they would interact with another participant of the same sex
o The other participant was required to watch the confederate receive only 2/10 shocks,
and the participants were allowed to leave the experiment while the confederate
finished the study
o Participants had the choice to leave after the confederate received two shocks or were
“obligated” to stay throughout the experiment.
o If the participant agreed to leave after the two shocks, leaving the confederate go
through the other 8 shocks, it meant that they were influenced by personal distress
o If the participant was not allowed to leave after the two shocks, they provided self-
reports, which indicated whether they were distressed or felt empathy for the
Those who were empathetic, stayed in the study and took on more shocks in
the place of the confederate in order to help them; and those who were
distressed, took less shocks.
Anonymous Altruism
Batson et al. asked female participants to form impression of a confederate based on info that
person wrote about herself
o Hypothesis: empathy promotes altruistic behavior
o Janet Arnold (a student confederate) wrote two notes to the participant expressing
supposedly honest info about herself
o The task of the listener/participant: form an accurate impression of Janet as possible
Bona Kim PSYC215 Chapter Summary
o Empathic concern was manipulated
o Low-empathy condition: the participant was told to be as objective as possible when
reading the notes, to concentrate on the facts at hand
o High-empathy condition: participant was told to imagine as vividly as possible how the
communicator felt
o 1st note: janet confessed to feeling out of place at her new home at university
o 2nd note: janet expressed a strong need for a friend, and she asked the participant if
she’d like to hang out
o experimenter gave the participant a form that described another “long-term
relationship study” and asked whether the participant would like to spend time at
some later date with Janet
in the low-social evaluation condition, janet’s notes were delivered in sealed
envelopes and the experimenter didn’t read them
participant indicated how much time she would spend with janet on a
form that she enclosed in a sealed envelope to be sent to the
professor conducting the study
neither janet nor the experimenter would know the response
in the high-social-evaluation condition, both the experimenter and the
participant read Janet’s notes, and Janet and the experimenter would know
the answer
the critical dependent measure = # of hrs the participant volunteered to
spend with Janet
participants in the high-empathy condition volunteered to spend more time
with her, even when no one would know of their action
- A form of pure, undiluted altruism is based on empathic concernthe feeling of concern for
another person after observing and being moved by that person’s needs. Experimenters have
found clever ways to distinguish between people who help for empathic and nonempathic
reasons. Those who help for egoistic distress avoidance reasons show different physiological
patterns than those who help for empathic reasons.
Physiological Indicators of Empathy
- Empathy has distinct physiological signature
o Can be used to predict if person will behave altruistically
- Nancy Eisenberd et al.: participants of different age groups watched a video of woman and
her children who had been in an accident. The children were said to have missed school to
o Facial expressions of participants and heart rate were recorded
o Younger participants decided that they would miss recess in order to help the children
with their homework (notice the sacrifice of leisure time)
o Children and college students who had empathic concern had physiological signs
Eyebrows pulled in and upward
Concerned gaze
Decelerated heart rate (opposite of flight or flight response)
More likely to help out
o Participants experiencing distress
Pained wince on face
Heart rate acceleration
Less likely to help out
- thus, empathic concerns produces more helping behavior than distress
- it also appears to do so in part through a different physiological response
Bona Kim PSYC215 Chapter Summary
Empathic Concern and Volunteerism
- Empathic concern also motivates volunteerism, actions people take to enhance the welfare of
others (for example, tending to the sick or dying when there is no expectation of
compensation) with no expectation of compensation
o Self-reports of empathic concern can predict likelihood individual will engage in
o Suggested that volunteerism is good for health and longevity
o Empathy can be passed on from parents to children
Oliners interviewed over 100 rescuers from WWII, individuals who risked
their lives to save jews during the Nazi holocaust
in the course of these interviews, rescuers reported that their parents
and grandparents frequently told stories from their own lives and
from their culture in which altruism was a theme
altruism was a central theme in the books the family read and the
teachings they discussed
altruism was explicitly invoked as an important ethical principle
Box 14.1: Focus on Social Trends - Are Young Adults Today Less Empathetic than those of
previous generation?
- Steven Pinker: shows that over the eons, violence has been steadily decreasing while
sympathy with our fellow human beings is increasing
o Evidence suggests that quite recently, levels of empathic concern may have declined
- Sara Konrath et al
o Compiled the results from 72 studies involving 13,737 students in the U.S. who had
filled out a self-report scale that measures empathic concern (7-item scale)
o Ppl who often feel high levels of empathic concern tend to be interested in other ppl
Have more positive attitudes towards other species
They act in more prosocial ways
More likely to give money to homeless people
Carry someone’s belongings
Volunteer for charity
Return incorrect change
o synthesized studies spanning 30 yrs (1979-2009) to compare how empathetic college
students are today with how empathetic college students were 30 yrs a go
college students’ reports of how much empathy they feel for other people
have dropped significantly over the last 30 yrs
Situational Determinants of Altruism
- Kitty Genovese: assaulted and killed, but no one came to help
o Bystanders felt empathy, yet did not help her because they did not think it was so
serious (thought she was fighting with her lover, etc.)
Darley and Batsons Good Samaritan Study
- John Darley and Daniel Batson’s “Good Samaritan study
o Inspired by the Good samartian patable
o Subtle situational factors such as whether you are on time or late, determine whether
you will help someone in need
o Asked students attending Princeton Theological Seminary to give a talk to undergrad
students at another location on campus
o C1: seminary students were told that the topic of the talk would be the jobs that the
seminary students typically find upon graduating
o C2: give a talk on the tale of the Good Samaritan
o Given a map of the Princeton campus and showed them how to get there
C1: (no-hurry condition) told they have plenty of time
C2: (moderate-hurry condition) told they should hurry a little
C3: (high-hurry condition) told they were already a bit late