PSYB10 Chapter 10

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6 Jun 2011
Social Psychology:
Chapter 10: Why Do People Help?
Prosocial Behavior:Any act performed with the goal of benefiting another
Altruism:the desire to help another person, even if it involves a cost to the
helper; it does not include helping somebody for personal gain,
only helping for the desire to benefit someone else
Evolutionary Psychology: Instincts and Genes
The evolution theory states that any gene that enhances the probability of survival and the
production of offspring will be passed on from generation to generation, whereas those genes
that reduces the chances of survival will not be passed on
This theory does not account for altruistic behaviour, as it often involves behaviours that risk the
individuals well being
Kin Selection:the idea that behaviour that helps a genetic relative is favoured by
natural selection
Via kin selection, the chances of your genes being passed to the next generation is enhanced
not only by your children, but the children of your relatives
According to the evolutionary theory, those who follow kin selection are more likely to survive
than those who do not, so over the millennia, it has been ingrained in human behaviour
Research does not fully support this; emotional closeness, rather than genetic relatedness, is a
better predictor of altruism
Norm of Reciprocity:The expectation that helping others will increase the likelihood that
they will help us in the future
In this theory, evolutionary psychologists claim that those who were most likely to survive were
those who developed and understood with their neighbours that they will provide help with the
expectation that help will be given in times of need
In the social norm theory, it is not directly altruism that is learned per se, but rather it is in a
person`s genetic makeup to quickly and effectively learn social norms, and helping one another
is a social norm in all societies
In sum, evolutionary psychologists believe that people help each other because of three factors:
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1.Kin selection 3. The ability to learn and follow social norms
2.The norm reciprocity
Social Exchange: The Costs and Rewards of Helping
According to the social exchange theory, people form relationships to maximize our rewards
and minimize the costs
The rewards of helping include forming future investments (they will help you later), relieving the
distress of the bystander, and also relieving your own distress, and finally social approval
However people are less likely to help when the costs are high, when it would put them in
physical danger, result in pain or embarrassment, or take too much time
Therefore the social exchange theory holds that people will help only when the benefits
outweigh the costs. Altruism, in which people help even when it is costly, does not exist
according to this theory
All altruism comes with some benefit, whether it be the good feeling of helping others, or the
social regard that comes with being a philanthropist
Empathy and Altruism: The Pure Motive for Helping
Empathy:The ability to experience events and emotions (e.g. joy and sadness) the
way another person experiences them
This theory maintains that altruistic behaviour is more likely when you feel empathy towards the
Empathy-altruism Hypothesis:the idea that when we feel empathy for a person, we will
attempt to help him or her, purely for altruistic reasons, regardless
of what we have to gain
If a person does not feel empathy towards the person, then the social exchange theory comes
into play. In this case, you will look at whats in it for you. If there is a possible benefit in the
situation, you will help; if not, you will not
Empathy was related to helping among children as young as five years old
In a twist to this theory, it has been proposed that people are more likely to help if the act allows
them to see themselves as altruistic, but not unconditionally so
This is because if we saw ourselves as purely altruistic, we would feel compelled to help
other every time they need help, but since that is not possible we are dooming ourselves
to failure. Therefore by disguising our altruism in exchange theory, we can provide our
altruism without making a lifetime commitment
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