PSYC 215 Chapter Notes - Chapter 10: Claude S. Fischer, Stanley Milgram, Egotism
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Chapter 10: Helping Others.
Why Do People Help?
Prosocial behaviours: actions intended to benefit others
-The Selfish Gene : emphasizes on the survival of the individual’s gene (not the survival of the fittest individuals).
Human social behaviours should be analyzed in terms of their contribution to reproductive success. “If a specific
social behaviour enhances reproductive success, the genetic underpinnings of that behaviour are more likely to be
passed on the subsequent generations”. A good way to ensure the survivals of genes: promoting the survival of
those who share your genetic makeup, even if you perish in the effort to help them. Tendency to help genetic
relatives = kin selection. Research: more helping occurs among those closely related and friends. If the costs of
helping are low, friends receive the most help. If the costs are high, siblings will receive more help.
-Reciprocal Altruism : helping someone else to increase the likelihood that you’ll be helped in return. Over the course
of evolution, individuals who engage in reciprocal altruism should survive and reproduce more than those who don’t,
thus enabling this kind of altruism to flourish. → learning to cooperate can be rewarding for both parties. The
development of norms and the punishment of individuals who deviate from the norm are key factors in maintaining
reciprocal altruism, especially in groups of non-kin.
-The Altruistic Group : groups with altruistic members may be more likely to thrive and avoid extinction than groups
with only selfish individuals. Cooperation and helpfulness for the good of the group could be an innate, universal
Rewards of Helping.
One important reason: it often is rewarding, even if the rewards are psychological rather than material. "Helping helps the
People are more likely to help when the potential rewards > potential costs.
Arousal: cost-reward model: proposition that people react to emergency situations by acting in the most cost-effective way
to reduce the arousal of shock and alarm. Both emotional and cognitive factors determine whether bystanders to an
emergency will intervene. Emotionally, bystanders experience the shock and alarm of personal distress; this unpleasant state
of arousal motivates them to do something reduce it. What they do will depend on the “bystander calculus”, their computation
of the costs and rewards associated with helping. When potential rewards > potential costs, bystanders will help.
-Feeling Good : Helping often simply feels good. Strong relationship between giving help and feeling better.
Research: brain activity suggests that cooperation is intrinsically rewarding, and this feeling could reinforce altruism
and inhibit selfishness. Hormone associated with positive social interactions: oxytocin. Process of helping other to
feel good is often unconscious. Negative State Relief Model: because of a positive effect of helping, people who
are feeling bad may be inclined to help others in order to improve their mood.
-Being Good : motivation to be good. Acts of helping can be triggered either because of norms and moral principles or
for the helper to feel good.
-The Costs of Helping, or of Not Helping : Thoughtful helping in the face of potentially enormous costs (eg: hiding
Jews during the Holocaust) = courageous resistance. When the help involves constant and exhausting demands,
the effects on the helper’s health (physical and mental) can be quite negative. To lower some costs of helping:
“Good Samaritan” laws that encourage people to provide aid in an emergency, so long as they don’t endanger
themselves in the process.
Altruism or Egoism.
Altruistic: motivated by the desire to increase another’s welfare. It’s when you focus on the other person that true altruism is
Egoistic: motivated by selfish concerns or simple conformity to social norms
Empathy: understanding or experiencing another individual’s perspective and feeling sympathy and compassion for that
individual. Perspective taking: “trying to see the world through someone else’s eyes”.
The Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis: proposition that empathic concern for a person in need produces an altruistic motive for
helping. When a person’s motive is egoistic, helping should decline if it’s easy for the individual to escape from the situation.
When a person’s motive is altruistic, help will be given regardless of the ease of escape. The more you feel empathic for
someone, the more likely you are to help him/her. Limit: motives don’t guarantee behaviour. Even if feeling empathic for
someone, you won’t necessarily help if you fear the potential costs. Also, some individuals tend to be more or less altruistic
than others. Egoists act prosocially only when their reputations are at stake.
Altruism vs. Egoism: Convergence of motivations: Debate less relevant when considering long-term helping behaviour such
as volunteering. Research : volunteers who engage for self-oriented motives remain active volunteers longer than those who
initially emphasized other-oriented motives
When Do People Help?
The Unhelpful Crowd.
There’s a decline in moral values in contemporary society
Anonymity and apathy are often seen in large American cities (eg: NY)
Research: participant’s response to an emergency is strongly influenced by the size of the group. When they thought they
were the only one who had noticed the emergency, they helped very quickly. In larger groups, participants were less likely
and slower to intervene. Bystander effect: the presence of others inhibits helping.
Decision-making process involved in emergency situation: 5 steps.
1. Noticing: notice that someone needs help or that something out of the ordinary is happening. The presence of
others can be distracting and can divert attention away from indications of a victim’s plight. People may fail to
recognize someone needs help because they are caught in their own self-concerns. Big cities: people become used
to seeing people lying on sidewalks or hearing screams so they tune them out. → Stimulus overload.
2. Interpreting: People must interpret the meaning of what they notice. The more ambiguous the situation, the less
likely the bystander will help. Interpretation of the relationship between the victim and the attacker also affect
whether help will be provided. Less help when we think that a man and a woman are in a close relationship because
intervening in domestic violence is perceived to be more dangerous to the helper and less desired by the victim than
intervening in an attack by a stranger. Same phenomenon observed with family members because people think it’s
“safe”. Pluralistic Ignorance: the state in which people mistakenly believe that their own thoughts and feelings are
different from those of others, even when everyone’s behaviour is the same. Eg: when everyone looks at everyone
else for clues about how to behave, the entire group is paralyzed by indecision. The person needing help is then
victim of pluralistic ignorance.
3. Taking Responsibility: Diffusion of Responsibility: the belief that others will or should take responsibility and
intervene (cannot occur if an individual thinks that only she/he is the only one aware of the victim’s need). Usually
takes place under conditions of anonymity. Bystanders who do not know the victim personally are more likely to see
others as responsible for providing help. If the psychological distance between a bystander and a victim is reduced,
there will be less diffusion of responsibility and more help. A group leader is more likely than other group members
to act in an emergency. Eg: RN do not diffuse responsibility when confronted by a possible physical injury
4. Deciding how to help: bystanders are more likely to offer direct help when they feel competent to perform the
actions required. Helping indirectly: calling for assistance from others → safe, simple and effective.
5. Providing help: take action. People sometimes feel to socially awkward and embarrassed to act helpfully in a public
setting. Audience Inhibition: when observers do not act in an emergency because they fear making a bad
impression on other observers. However, when people think others will scorn them for failing to help, the presence
of the audience increases their helpful actions.
The bystander effect online: the virtual presence of others reduces the likelihood that anyone individual would intervene. It’s
also more difficult to help when not physically there with the victim. We often don’t know his/her real identity.
Getting Help in a Crowd: What Should You Do? : Try to counteract the ambiguity of the situation by making it very clear that
you do need help. Try to reduce diffusion of responsibility by singling out particular individuals for help → specify a particular
•When ppl are in a hurry or have a lot on their minds, they are less likely to notice or choose to help others in need.
When we have other demands on us that seem very important, getting involved in someone else’s problem may
seem like a luxury we can’t afford (Batson et al., 1978).
•Study by Darley and Batson (1973): Examined role of time pressure in an experiment = most ironic finding in social
oBased on the parable of the Good Samaritan from the Bible: A priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan travel
down a road and encounter a man half-dead on the side of the road. The priest and Levite (considered