PSYC 215 Chapter Notes - Chapter 9: Twin, Nechama Tec, Egotism

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16 May 2012
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Chapter 9: Pro-social Behaviour: Doing What’s Best for Others
What is Pro-social Behaviour?
Doing something that is good for other people or for society as a whole. It builds
relationships. Some textbooks claim that helping is the only pro-social behaviour, and things
such as obedience, conformity and other ways of following the rules to be a bad thing. In
reality, these are the quintessential pro-social behaviours, while helping is more of an extra.
A society in which people respect and follow the rules is said to have an effective rule of
law. Researchers have found a positive correlation between rule of law and happiness.
Fairness and justice are also important factors in predicting pro-social behaviour (it makes
people want to act in this way). A lot of pro-social behaviour is stimulated by others, when
people are watching. One purpose of pro-social behaviour, especially when it is at a cost to
the self, is to get oneself accepted into the group. Doing nice things without recognition is
less beneficial. Other studies show that favours increase compliance in both public and
private settings, but more so in public ones.
Born to Reciprocate
Reciprocity: the obligation to return in kind what another has done for us.
This is found in other animals than humans.
Some reciprocity can be indirect- helping someone, and then receiving help later
from someone else who knows you by reputation.
People’s tendency to seek help also depends on whether they think that they will be
able to pay it back. This is a big problem with the elderly.
In this sense, people tend to have an acute sense of fairness.
Born to be Fair
Fairness is part of our culture and it starts with reciprocity.
Norms: standards established by society to tell its members what types of
behaviour are typical or expected. Norms based on fairness and important to
determine whether or not people contribute to the common good. Some norms:
o Equity: person receives benefits equal to what he or she has contributed
o Equality: everyone gets the same amount
Fairness is important; if we think we are takers rather than givers, this can lead to
Sensitivity about being the target of a threatening upward comparison:
interpersonal concern about the consequences of outperforming others.
Do animals understand fairness?
o Researchers trained monkeys to fetch rocks, and were rewarded with
cucumber. Some randomly got grapes, which are better. Those who did not
got angry; they either refused to fetch more rocks or flung aside their
Underbenefited: getting less than you deserve
Overbenefited: getting more than you deserve
Moneys have an acute sense of when they are
underbenefited, like several other animals.
Full-blown sense of fairness involves both, and this was only
in humans.
Getting less promotes anger and resentment, while getting more promotes guilt.
1. Henrietta helped Maurille when her first child was born. When Henrietta has her
first child, Maurille thinks that she ought to help Henrietta. This type of helping
illustrates the norm of _____.
a. Equity
b. Reciprocity
c. Social justice
d. Social responsibility
2. Albert thinks that because he has more job experience than others on his shift, he
should make more money than they do. This illustrates the norm of _____.
a. Equality
b. Equity
c. Reciprocity
d. Social Responsibility
3. At the local soup kitchen, volunteers give everyone one bowl of soup regardless of
how much money they have or how hungry they are. This type of helping illustrates
the norm of _____.
a. Equality
b. Equity
c. Reciprocity
d. Social responsibility
4. Some people feel bad for having lived through terrible experiences in which many
others died. This feeling is called _______.
a. Overbenefited
b. Posttraumatic stress disorder
c. Sensitivity about being the target of a threatening upward comparison
d. Survivor guilt
Cooperation, Forgiveness, Obedience and Conformity
Vital and simple form of prosocial behaviour, based on reciprocity
Studies on cooperation done using the prisoner’s dilemma: forces people to choose
between a cooperative act and another act that combines being competitive,
exploitative, and defensive.
o Robert Axelrod (political scientist): computer tournament designed to
investigate the prisoner’s dilemma. Contestants submitted computer
o The best strategy to win was to copy what the other player did
o This is a non-zero-sum game. Zero sum games (eg poker, or chess) have
no net gain or less.
Money increases self-sufficiency
Cooperation also depends on the type of person. Cooperators see it as good vs. bad,
while competitors see it as strong vs. weak.
When two people are cooperative, the game works well. When both are defensive,
they both mutually do badly. When only one wants to cooperate, this person rapidly
changes to being defensive.
Successful cooperation also depends on communication; it must be present and
Ceasing to feel angry and ceasing to seek retribution from someone.
The more someone is committed to a relationship, the more likely they will forgive.
Forgiveness leads to better relationships, not vice versa.
Large groups cannot function properly without some degree of obedience.
Social psychologists have generally seen obedience as negative (Milgram’s
experiments). But obedience is necessary, and even those who refused to go on did
show some obedience; to their morals.
Going along with the crowd; has also had a bad reputation among social
However it is a form of prosocial behaviour.
People conform more when they think that people are watching. 77% of women
wash their hands after using the bathroom, only if they thought that someone else
was in there with them. If they thought that they were alone, only 39% did.
The presence of conformists greatly increases the group size for which cooperation
can be sustained.
1. Psychiatrists predicted that _____ participants would go all the way in Milgram’s
experiment, giving a maximum shock level (450 V) to the confederate.
a. 1 in 10
b. 1 in 50