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Chapter 8

Social Psychology Chapter 8

8 Pages

Course Code
PSYC 2120
James Check

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Social Psychology Chapter 8. Altruism: Helping Others → Altruism is selfishness in reverse. An altruistic person is concerned and helpful even when no benefits are offered or expected in return. Discuss why we help others. > Discuss how social exchange affects helping → Several theories of helping agree that, in the long run, helping benefits the giver as well as the receiver. One explanation assumes that human interactions are guided b a “social economics.” We exchange not only material goods and money but also social goods - love, services, information, status. In doing so, we use a “minimax” strategy - minimize costs, maximize rewards. Social-exchange theory does not contend that we consciously monitor costs and rewards, only that such considerations predict out behaviour. → Rewards: Rewards that motivate helping may be external or internal. External reward may involve a businesses donating money to improve their corporate image, or offering someone a ride with hopes of being appreciated or being friends. Thus we are most eager to help someone attractive to us, someone whose approval we desire. In experiments, and in everyday life, public generosity boosts one‟s status, while selfish behaviour can lead to punishment. Rewards may also be Internal, for instance donating blood makes people feel good about themselves, feelings of self satisfaction. Piliavin and Susan Anderson pointed to dozens of studies showing that youth engaged in community service projects, school-based “service-learning,” or tutoring children develop social skills and positive social values. Also, note that generous people are happier than those whose spending is self-focused. In one experiment, people received an envelope with cash that some were instructed to spend on themselves, while others were directed to spend it on other people. At the day‟s end, the happiest people were those assigned to to spend-it-on-others condition. So the question becomes: is social exchange theory really altruistic? This is reminiscent of B. F. Skinner‟s analysis of altruism. We credit people for their good deeds only when we can‟t explain them. We attribute their behaviour to their inner dispositions only when we lack external explanations. When the external causes are obvious, we credit the causes, not the person. This is the weakness in the social-exchange theory: it degenerates into explaining-by-naming. Why did she volunteer? How do we know it‟s internal? This circular reasoning has brought in the idea of egoism - the idea that self-interest motivates all behaviour. To escape the circularity, we must define the rewards and costs independently of the helping behaviour. If social approval motivates helping, then in experiments we should find that when approval follows helping, helping increases. And is does. → Internal rewards: So far we have considered external rewards for helping, we also need to consider internal factors, such as the helpers emotional state. Altruism researcher Dennis Krebs found that university men whose physiological responses and self-reports revealed the most arousal in response to another‟s distress also gave the most help to the person. > Guilt: Distress is not the only negative emotion we act to reduce. Picture yourself as a participant in one such experiment conducted with university students by David McMillen and James Austin. You and a friend participate in an experiment to get a credit. A confederate walks in and says that most of the answers for the multiple choice test are „B‟. Then the experimenter walks in and asks you participants if you know or heard anything about this test. Would you lie? 100% of those who went before you did lie. After you‟re done the experimenter says you are free to leave, however if you have some spare time, he could use some help to score the tests. Assuming you have told the lie, do you think you would now be more willing to volunteer some time? Judging from the results, the answer again is yes. On average, those who had not been induced to lie volunteered only two minutes of time. Those who had lied were apparently eager to redeem their self-image; on average, they offered 63 minutes. All in all, guilt leads to much good. By motivating people to confess, apologize, help, and avoid repeated harm, it boosts sensitivity and sustains close relationships. When an adult is in a guilty, sad, or otherwise negative mood, a helpful deed (or any other mood improving experience) helps neutralize the bad feelings. > Exceptions to the feel bad-do good scenario: Feel bad-do good is not always found in adults. One negative mood, anger, produced anything but compassion. Another exception is depression, which is characterized by self-concern. Another exception is profound grief, People who suffer the loss of spouse or a child often undergo a period of intense self-preoccupation, a state that makes giving difficult. In an experiment involving laboratory stimulation of self-focused grief, William Thompson, Claudia Cowan, and David Rosenhan had Standford University students privately listen to a taped description of a person (whom they were to imagine was their best friend of the other sex) dying of cancer. The experiment had some subjects attention on their own worry and grief, and some others focused their attention on the friend. The researchers reported that regardless of which tape the participants head, they were profoundly moved and sobered by the experience, yet not all regretful of participating. Did their moods affect helpfulness? When immediately thereafter they were given a chance to anonymously help a graduate student with her research, 25 percent of those whose attention had been self-focused helped. Of those whose attention was other-focused, 83 percent helped. The two groups were equally touched. But only the other-focused participants found helping someone especially rewarding. In short, the feel bad-do good effect occurs with people whose attention is on others, people for whom altruism is, therefore, rewarding. > Feel good do good: Are happy people unhelpful? Quite the contrary. Joseph Forgas has a confederate offer either mood-boosting compliment or a neutral or mood-deflating comment. When a second confederate, blind, walked and seeked help, the staff who received the mood boost made the greatest effort. Dariusz Dolinski and Richard Nawrat found that a positive mood of relief can dramatically boost helping. They put a ticket on a persons car, and the person saw a ticket on the dashboard which was relieved to find out it was only an ad. A confederate then approached and asks for 15 minutes to help with their thesis. 62% of those who felt relief helped. Nearly double the number who received no ticket or when it was put on the car door (not a place for tickets). Alice Isen, Margaret Clark, and Mark Schwartz had a confederate call people who had received a free sample of stationery 0-20 minutes earlier. The confederate said she had used her last dime to dial this (supposedly wrong) number and asked each person to relay a message by phone. The individuals willingness to relay the phone message rose during 5 minutes afterward. Then as the good mood wore off, helpfulness dropped. Helping softens a bad mood and sustains a good mood. A positive mood is, in turn, conducive to positive thoughts and positive self- esteem, which dispose us to positive behaviour. Positive thinkers are likely to be positive actors. <> Overall: The social exchange theory assumes that helping, like other social behaviours, is motivated by a desire to maximize rewards, which may be external or internal. Thus, after wrongdoing, people often become more willing to offer help (guilt). Sad people also tend to be helpful. Finally, there is a striking feel good-do good effect: Happy people are helpful people. > Explain the role of social norms in helping others → Often we help others not because we have consciously calculated that such behaviour is in our self interest but simply because something tells us we ought to. Such as helping a neighbour move in. Norms are social expectations. They prescribe proper behaviour, the oughts of our lives. Researchers studying helping behaviour have identified two social norms that motivate altruism: the reciprocity norm and the social responsibility norm. → Sociologist Alvin Gouldner contended that one universal moral code is a norm of reciprocity: To those who help us, we should return help, not harm. Gouldner believed this norm is as universal as the incest taboo. We “invest” in others and expect dividends. Reciprocity within social networks helps define the “social capital”- the supportive connections, information flow, trust, and cooperative actions - that keeps the community healthy. Neighbours keeping an eye on each other‟s homes is social capital in action. In one experiment, Mark Whatley found that more university students willingly made a pledge to the charity of someone who had previously bought them some candy. Also, when people cannot reciprocate, they may feel threatened and demeaned by accepting aid. Thus, proud, high self-esteem people are often reluctant to seek help. → With people who clearly are dependent and unable to reciprocate, such as children, the severely impoverished, and those with disabilities, another social norm motivates our helping. The social- responsibility is the belief that people should help those who need help, with-out regard to future exchanges. This norm motivates people to retrieve a dropped book for a person on crutches, for example. In India, a relatively collectivest culture, people support the social-responsibility norm more strongly than in the individualist West. They voice an obligation to help even when the need is not life-threatening or the need person - perhaps a stranger needing a bone marrow transplant - is outside their family circle. In the West we tend to help the needy people, however they usually apply the social-responsibility norm selectively to those whoose need appears not to be due to their own negligence. Responses are thus closely tied to attributions. If we attribute the need to an uncontrollable predicament, we help. If we attribute the need to the person‟s choices, fairness does not require us to help; we say it‟s the person‟s own faults. The key, suggested Udo Rudolph, is whether your attributions evoke sympathy, which in turn motivates helping. Imagine yourself as one of the students in a study by Richard Barnes, William Ickes, and Robert Kidd. If you get a call from a somebody in class, Tony, who says “My notes are not good enough for the final exam. I know I could write better notes but I just don‟t feel like it”. How sympathetic would you feel toward Tony? If you are like the students in this experiment, you would probably be much less inclined to help then if Tony had just explained that his troubles were beyond his control. Thus, the social responsibility norm compels us to help those most in need and those most deserving. > Gender and receiving help: If, indeed, perception of someone else‟s need strongle determines your willingness to help, will women, if perceived as less competent and more dependent, receive more help than men? That is indeed the case. Alice Eagly and Maureen Crowley located 35 studies that compared help received by male or female victims. Women offered help equally to males and females, whereas men offered more help when the strangers in need were females. Moreover, these forms of helping may have been motivated by something else other than altruism, ex mating motivates heroism. Not surprising, men more frequently helped attractive women - ex when they had a disabled car. Also women receive more offers of help in certain situations; they also seek more help. <> Overall: Social Norms also mandate helping. The reciprocity norm stimulates us to help those who have helped us. The social-responsibility norm beckons us to help need people even if they cannot reciprocate, as long as they are deserving. Describe what evolutionary psychology predicts about helping. → Another explanation of helping comes from evolutionary theory. Evolutionary psychology contends that the essence of life is gene survival. Donald Campbell called a biological reaffirmation of a deep, self- serving “original sin.” Genes that predispose individuals to self-sacrifice in the interests of strangers‟ welfare would not survive in the evolutionary competition. Genetic selfishness should, however, predispose us toward two specific types of selfless or even self-sacrificial altruism: Kin protection and reciprocity. > Kin protection: David barash wrote “genes help themselves by being nice to themselves, even if they are enclosed in difference bodies.” Genetic egoism (at the biological level) fosters parental altruism (at the psychological level). Although evolution favours self-sacrifice for one‟s children, children have less at stake in the survival of their parents‟ genes. Thus, according to the theory, parents will general be more devoted to their children than their children are to them. Kin selection is the idea that evolution has selected altruism toward one‟s close relatives to enhance the survival of mutually shared genes. We also share common genes with many besides our relatives. Blue-eyes, for example, is one clue in physical similarity. Also, in evolutionary history genes were shared more with neighbours than with foreingers. Are we therefore biologically biased to be more helpful to those who look similar to us and who live near us? Let us look at natural disasters. The children are helped before the old, family members beefore friends, neighbours before strangers. Helping stats close to home. Some evolutionary psychologists note that kin selection predisposes ethnic in-group favouritism. > Reciprocity: Genetic self-interest also predicts reciprocity. One organism helps another, biologist Robert Trivers argued, because it expects help in return. The giver expects later to be the getter, whereas failure to reciprocate is punished: The cheat, turncoat, and the traitor are universally despised. Reciprocity works best in small, isolated groups, groups in which one will often see the people for whom one does favours. Why help strangers if individual self interest inevitably wins in genetic competition? One answer, initially favoured by Darwin is group selection: When groups are in competition, groups of mutually supportive altruists outlast groups of non- altruists. This can explain why a soldier throws himself on a grenade to save the rest. Natural selection is, therefore, a multi-level: it
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