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Chapter 10

PSY220H1 Chapter Notes - Chapter 10: Coquitlam River, Social Exchange Theory, Pluralistic Ignorance

Course Code
Heather V.Fritzley

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PSY220 - Chapter 10: Prosocial Behaviour (Lecture 9)
Prosocial behaviour: a helpful action that benefits other people without necessarily providing any direct
benefits to the person performing the act, and that may even involve a risk for the person who helps
Altruism: behaviour that is motivated by an unselfish (non self-interest) concern for the welfare of others
Altruism is a form of prosocial behaviour, but is not the only type
Heroism: actions that involve courageous risk-taking to obtain a socially valued goal.
Someone who works in a prosocial job (e.g. nurse) is not a hero
Winners of the Carnegie Hero Medal: which is awarded throughout the US and Canada to
those who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving/attempting to save the lives of
Becker and Eagly (2004) also apply hero to individuals who take risks in less dangerous/dramatic
ways such as donating a kidney for a transplant, such as Carlos Rogers (who would end his NBA
career for his sister)
Bystander effect: The fact that the likelihood of a prosocial response to an emergency is affected by
the number of bystanders who are present
Kitty Genovese’s murderled to research in this area
In NYC, 38 people witnessed her behind stabbed to death over a period of 45 minutes,
not one person called the police
Port Coquitlam, B.C. Breann Voth: Left her house at 5:45am on her way to work when she
was brutally raped, murdered and left face down in the Coquitlam River
3 residents in the area of where she was attacked heard her screams but no one called
the police
Diffusion of responsibility: the idea that the amount of responsibility assumed by bystanders
in an emergency is shared among them
Darley and Latane (1968) study
Participants were exposed to an ‘emergency’ and were
arranged to believe they were either the only person aware of
the emergency, one of two bystanders, or one of five
Helpfulness was measured in terms of:
o Percentage of participants in each experimental
group who attempted to help
o The time that passed before help began
The more bystanders, the lower the percentage of
students who made a prosocial response, and the
longer the helpful students waited before responding
Even thinking about a group of people can result in less
helping in later, unrelated situations known as the implicit
bystander effect

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A prosocial response to an emergency has been conceptualized as the end point of a series of 5 steps/choice
At each step, an individual either becomes less likely or more likely to engage in a prosocial response
1) Attending to the situation: Notice or Fail to Notice Something Unusual is Happening
An emergency is obviously something that occurs unexpectedly, there is no sure way to
anticipate that it will occur or to plan how to respond
In everyday life, we may ignore many sights/sounds because they are ordinarily not relevant, to
not be overwhelmed by stimulus overload
Darley and Baston (1973)field study test
People are less likely to help if they are in a hurry, potential helpful is not aware that an
emergency exists
2) Interpreting the Situation: Correctly Interpreting an Event as an Emergency
Research was conducted with students in training
for the clergy (those who would especially be likely
to help a stranger in need)
Experimenters instructed each participant
to walk to a nearby building on campus to
give a talk
To vary degree of preoccupation,
investigators created 3 conditions
Students were either told they had plenty
of extra time to reach the building, right on
schedule or running late and needed to
Along the route to the building, emergency
was staged and a stranger was slumped in

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When information is ambiguous, people accept a comforting explanation that an emergency is
not occurring
Multiple witnesses may inhibit helping not only because of diffusion of responsibility, but also
because it is embarrassing to misinterpret a situation and act inappropriately
When others are present as fellow observers of an event, we rely on social comparisons to test
our interpretations if other people show no sign of alarm about what is being witnessed, it is
safer to follow their lead
Pluralistic ignorance: erroneous beliefs concerning the thoughts, beliefs, and behaviour of
others (tendency for an individual surrounded by others to hesitate and do nothing)
When an individual notices that no one else is responding, they may believe that no one
else is concerned and be less likely to respond
Latane and Darley (1968)smoke-filled room experiment
Placed students in a room alone or with two others and had them fill questionnaires
After several minutes, smoked was pumped into the research room
When the participant was working alone, 75% stopped what they were doing and left the
room to report the problem
With 3 people, only 38% of the participants reacted to the smoke, even when the smoke
was so thick it was difficult to see
This is less likely to happen when people are with friends, living in a small town vs. big
city, or drinking alcohol (lowers inhibition and social anxiety)
Marsh, Kozak and Ambday (2007)people who were better able to recognize fear would
behave more prosocially than those who were not as good at recognizing fear
3) Assuming Responsibility: Deciding it is your responsibility to help
If responsibility is not clear, people assume that anyone in a leadership role must take
Norm of social responsibility: a normal that prescribes that people should give help to those
who are in need of help, without consideration of their own personal benefit.
4) Deciding You have the Necessary Knowledge and/or Skills to Act
A prosocial response cannot occur unless the person knows how to be helpful
If emergencies require special skills, usually only a portion of the bystanders are able to help
5) Making the Final Decision to Provide Help
Helping at this final point can be inhibited by fears about potential negative consequences
‘cognitive algebra’ as they weigh positives versus the negative aspects of helping
Social exchange theory: a theory that states that all interactions between people are
transactions where one aims to maximize rewards and minimize costs
Helping Those You Like
People tend to help others they like
People are more likely to help someone they know, but also someone who is similar to them
Hasting et al (2006) Anything that increases interpersonal attraction, like people, similarity
will increase helping behaviour as well
Appearance influences prosocial behaviour, physically attractive victim receives more
help than an unattractive one
Helping Those Who Mimic Us
Mimicry: the automatic tendency to imitate those with whom we interact.
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