Psychology 2720A/B Chapter Notes - Chapter 12: Cooperativeness, Personal Development, Distant Relatives

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Published on 16 Apr 2013
Western University
Psychology 2720A/B
Helpful Behaviour
Helping: behaviour that is intended to assist another person
Prosocial Behaviour: any action that provides benefit to others
Prosocial behaviour encompasses helping, but it also includes actions that are not
necessarily intended to assist others
Types of Helping
McGuire proposed that the behaviours fell into four major categories
These categories consisted of casual helping, emergency helping, substantial
personal helping, and emotional helping
Causal and emergency helping typically involve strangers, whereas substantial
personal helping and emotional helping typically involve family or friends
Causal helping and emotional helping can be relatively simple to perform, whereas
substantial personal helping and emergency helping are potentially more difficult
Philip Pearce and Paul Amato identified three dimensions along which helping
behaviours very
The first dimension is the degree to which helping is planned or formal versus
spontaneous or informal
The second dimension of helping situations involves the seriousness of the
The third dimension involves a distinction between “giving what you have” and
“doing what you can”
Casual helping is typically unplanned and not seriously it can involve either giving
what you have or doing what you can
Emergency helping is also usually unplanned, but it is serious and always involved
doing what you can
Substantial personal helping is typically planned; it is often serious and can involve
either giving what you have or doing what you can
Emotional helping is usually planned and involves doing what you can; i can be
wither serious or not serious
Altruism, Versus Egoism
Two basic explanations have been proposed to account for helping behaviours
Help Others and Help Yourself
One consequence of helping others is that it makes you feel good too
It does not take long for us to learn that helping is associated with rewards and
other positive outcomes, and that not helping is associated with punishments
and other negative outcomes
Egotistic Motivation: a motive for helping in order to obtain rewards or avoid
Helping Others for Others’ Sake
Altruistic Motivation: a motive for helping purely for the sake of providing benefit
to another person
The distinction between egotistic and altruistic motivations for helping, however,
is not clear-cut
It is quite possible that both motivations contribute simultaneously - a mixture of
altruism and egoism
The Evolution of Altruism
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One explanation is an evolutionary one
Inclusive Fitness: the principle that some social behaviour have been selected
during the course of evolution because they increase the survival of our genes
Inclusive fitness may explain why people are wiling to sacrifice their own
personal resources (including their lives) in favor of offspring and other close
genetic relatives
Other research has shown that people provide more social support to close
relatives than to distant relatives and say they would distribute more money
form a lottery win to close relatives than to distant relatives
Kathy Denton argued that humans evolved to behave in ways that uphold
systems of cooperation among members of a band or larger groups
Empathy: the ability to comprehend how another person is experiencing a
Empathy for someone in need increases the likelihood that an individual will be
helpful to that person
We are more likely to feel empathy with others who are similar to us because
their similarity makes it easier to imagine what they are feeling
Empathy is also easier with familiar others because our knowledge of them
makes it easier to put ourselves in their shoes
Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis
Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis: the idea that feelings of empathy for a person
can lead to behaviour that is motivated solely by wanting to help that person
On the other hand, the empathy-helping relationship can be interpreted as yet
another version of egotistic motivation
In both of the high-empathy conditions, in which altruistic motivation was
presumably aroused, more than 80% of the participants offered to trade places
with Elaine, irrespective of how easy it was for them to escape
In the low-empathy conditions, helping depended on ease of escape
Combination of high empathy and easy escape factors that is hypothesized to
reflect altruistic motivation when people help
Challenged this interpretation suggesting that the combination of high empathy
and a suffering victim causes observers to feel sadness, when when escape is
People don;’t like to feel sad and will often help a victim in distress in an effort
to make themselves feel better - an egotistic rather than altruistic motivation for
An Unresolved Debate
Factors Influencing Helping
Six factors that influence helping behaviour
Social Norms
One explanation for helping behaviour, perhaps especially low-cost helping, is
that it is prescribed by social norms
Norm of Social Responsibility: the rule or guideline that we should help those
who need help, if possible
Another social norm is the norm of reciprocity
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Personal Norms: guidelines that have been internalized to become
expectations for oneself in particular situations
If you have internalized the norm of social responsibility, an you see it as
appropriate or fitting in a particular helping situation, then you are likely to help
On the other hand, if you haven or adopted this norm as an important personal
value, or you don’t see it as applying in the situation, then you are less likely to
Modeling Helpful Behaviour
Observing the actions of a helpful model increases individual’s helpfulness
The effect of models can be seen in the influence of parents on their children’s
Blaming the Victim
People are more receptive to the requests of victims who did not get
themselves into trouble in the first place
If victims brought about their own problems, then observers tend to blame them
and are less likely to offer help
Just World Theory: a model proposing that humans need to believe that the
world is a fair place where people generally get what they deserve
The belief in a just world can sometimes interfere with helping
If helping is not an option, then people may protect their belief by convincing
themselves wither that the victims did something to cause their own suffering or
that the victims are “bad people” who, in some sense, deserve to suffer
People sometimes look for reasons to blame victims so they do not have to
offer help
Aaron Kay suggested that people want to believe that the society in which they
live is fair; the authors labelled attempts to confirm this belief system
Good Mood
The effects of a good mood on helping have been replicated many times and
seem to last for about 10 minutes after the positive mood has been induced
People will not only try to rectify the victims misfortune, but they will also be
more helpful to others whom they did not affect
Individual Differences in Helping: The Altruistic Personality
Some people just seem to have a helpful personality
Other people prefer to mind their own business and do not typically show much
empathy or concern about others’ needs
Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI): a measure of reflecting the extent to which
people feel empathy in response to others’ experiences
The IRI has four parts or subscales:
Perspective Taking - measures the extent to which a person routinely takes
the point of view of others
Empathic Concern - measures the tendency of a person to experience
sympathy or compassion for others
Personal Distress - reflects the degree to which a person experiences
distress or discomfort in response to anothers extreme distress
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