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Chapter 8

PSYC 231 Chapter 8: PDF PSYC 231 Notes - Ch. 8

Course Code
PSYC 231
Carrie Kobelsky

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altruism: a motive to increase another’s welfare without conscious regard for
one’s own self-interest
why we help — different possible explanations for why we help others:
-social-exchange theory: (psychological explanation) the theory that
human interactions are transactions aimed to maximize one’s rewards &
minimize one’s costs
does not state that we consciously monitor our costs & rewards, but
rather these considerations only predict our behaviour
we subtly calculate whether or not helping is worth it, before making
a final decision
egoism: a motive (supposedly underlying all behaviour) to increase
your own welfare (therefore the opposite of altruism)
-must define rewards & costs independently of helping behaviour,
or else it just creates a circular explanation
rewards may be external or internal
-those who do good tend to do well
-generous people are happier & giving helps to increase happiness
-feel-bad do-good phenomena: after doing bad, people will do
whatever they can in order to reduce their private guilt & to
restore their self-image & desire to have a positive self-image
we are more likely to redeem ourselves with helpful
behaviour when others know about our misdeeds
the inner rewards of performing prosocial behaviour help to
neutralize bad feelings & moods
when self-occupied with anger, depression & extreme grief,
however, people do not perform the feel-bad do-good
phenomena & it makes it harder for them to help
when people’s attention is on others, only is their prosocial
behaviour then rewarding
helping softens a bad mood & helps sustains a good mood,
which is conducive to positive thoughts & positive self-
esteem, which predisposes us to positive behaviour
-feel-good do-good phenomena: when in a good mood,
regardless of the cause, people are also more helpful
when in a good mood, people are more likely to have positive
thought & to have positive associations with being helpful
-social norms — (sociological explanation) we help someone because
something tells us we ought to
2 social norms that motivate prosocial behaviour:
(i) reciprocity norm: an expectation that people will help, not
hurt, those who have helped them
-we all give, expecting they will give something in return
-reminds us to balance giving & receiving in social relations
-reciprocity within our social connections helps to define
the social capital (supportive connections, information
flow, trust, cooperation, etc.) that helps to keep a
community healthy
-when we are unable to reciprocate, we may feel threatened
& demeaned by accepting the aid
-proud, high self-esteem people are often reluctant to seek
help because receiving unsolicited help can bring down
one’s self-esteem
-feeling the need to reciprocate is stronger in collectivist,
rather than individualist, cultures
(ii) social-responsibility norm: expectation that people will help
those who depend upon them, w/o regard for future exchange
-“give people what they deserve”
-responses are consequently closely tied to to attributions
— if we attribute it to uncontrollable circumstances, we
help, but if we attribute to their own doing, we don’t
-compels us to help those who are most in need & those
who are most deserving of it
women offer help equally to males & females, but males offer more
help when the strangers are female, & when they are attractive
women receive more help in certain situations & seek help more often
-due to gender differences in independence vs. interdependence
-evolutionary psychology — (biological explanation) the essence of life is
gene survival, & our genes drive us to act in ways that will maximize their
chance of survival
humans exhibit multiple mechanisms to overcome selfishness:
(a) kin selection: evolution has selected altruism towards one’s
close relatives to enhance the survival of their mutual genes
-our genes dispose us to care for our relatives
-genetic egoism fosters parental altruism
-parents will be more devoted to their children than their
children are to them because the children have less at
stake in the survival of their parents’ genes
-identical twins are more likely to be mutually supportive
than fraternal twins
-we do not calculate genetic relatedness before helping, but
rather nature programs us to care about close relatives
(a) direct reciprocity: doing something for someone else,
expecting that they will return the favour
(b) indirect reciprocity: doing something for someone else,
expecting that they will do something for someone else, who will
do something you
(c) group selection: groups of mutually supportive altruists
outlast groups of non-altruists
-natural selection occurs on an individual & group level
-serve as ethical & religious rules that serve as brakes on the
biological bias towards self-interest
empathy: the vicarious experience of someone else’s feelings by putting
yourself in their shoes
-we experience empathy for people who we are attached too, or for whom
we feel we can identify with
-when we experience empathy, we focus on the distress of the sufferer, not
our own, & are motivated to help others for their own sake
-works together with distress in order to motivate responses to a crises
-distress (upset, anxious, disturbed) egoistic motivation to reduce
own’s distress behaviour (possibly helping) in order to reduce distress
-empathy (sympathy & compassion) altruistic motivation to reduce
other’s distress behaviour (helping) to reduce distress
-if we experience empathy but know that something else will make us feel
better, we aren’t as likely to help
when will we help — what circumstances prompt us to help:
-number of bystanders — the presence of other bystanders greatly
decreases emergency intervention
people are more likely to respond to a request when they believe that
they alone received the request
when there are more bystanders, victims are sometimes less likely to
ask for help
as the # of bystanders increase, any given bystander is less likely to:
(a) notice the incident — when in a group, you are less likely to be
paying full attention to your surroundings
(b) interpret the incident as a problem or emergency — due to
informational influence, each person uses each other’s reaction
in order to interpret the situation, but if no one is responding,
no one interprets it as a problem
-pluralistic ignorance: the assumption that others are
thinking & feeling what we are
-bystander effect: a person is less likely to provide help
when there are other bystanders, therefore more people is
worse for the victim
(c) assume responsibility for taking action — when in a group,
responsibility seems to diffuse among all bystanders
-when the emergency is very clear, people in groups are
only slightly less likely to help than those alone
-when situation are ambiguous, subjects in a group are far
less likely to help than those alone
-compassion fatigue & sensory overload from encountering
so many people retrain helping in large cities
-when bystanders are friends or family though, increasing
numbers may lead to increased help
after displaying the bystander effect & delaying/not helping, people
claim that they would have responded the same if they were alone
people in economically advanced countries tend to offer less help
-when someone else does — prosocial models promote prosocial
behaviour in others
kids learn best from both what they hear their parents say & see what
their parents do
-time pressures — when in a hurry, less likely to stop & help a victim,
simply because you did not notice the situation
-similarity to the victim — we are more empathetic & therefore
helping towards people who we feel similar to
applies to both appearance & beliefs
PSYC 231: Chapter 8 - Altruism
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