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Altruism or Egoism? That Is (Still) the Question Author(s): Robert B. Cialdini Source: Psychological Inquiry, Vol. 2, No. 2 (1991), pp. 124-126 Published by: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates (Taylor & Francis Group) Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1449244 Accessed: 21/04/2009 05:07
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in Summarizing the theoreticaltermsof Batsonand Shaw, we maintain that persons high in empathy have multiple ultimate goals, both altruistic and egoistic, that generally Batsonandhis promotehelping. In controlledcircumstances have demonstratedthat the altruistic goals are colleagues morepowerfulwhen subjectsareforcedto choose. However, they readily concede that outside the laboratorythese goals are often satisfied by the same behavior,helping. Given the conflicting evidence concerningthe interactionbetween altruisticand egoistic motives in helping situations(cf. Archer et al., 1981; Cialdini et al., 1987; Fultz et al., 1986), more researchon dispositionalempathy and helping is needed to decide our claim. If both motives do drive highly empathic people, then Batson and Shaw's elegant and parsimoniousEden in which a single ultimate goal predominatesis definitely lost to us. But then we never really had it to lose. Note of RichardL. Archer,Department Psychology,Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos, TX 78666-4616.
Archer, R. L. (1984). The farmerand the cowman should be friends:An attempt at reconciliation with Batson, Coke, and Pych. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46, 709-711. Archer, R. L., Diaz-Loving, R., Gollwitzer, P. M., Davis, M. H., & Foushee, H. C. (1981). The role of dispositionalempathyand social evaluationin the empathicmediationof helping. JournalofPersonality and Social Psychology, 40, 786-796. Archer, R. L., Foushee, H. C., Davis, M. H., & Aderman, D. (1979). Emotionalempathyin a courtroomsimulation:A person-situationinteraction.Journalof AppliedSocial Psychology, 9, 275-291. Cialdini, R. B., Schaller,M., Houlihan,D., Arps, K., Fultz,J., & Beaman, A. A. (1987). Empathy-based helping:Is it selflessly or selfishly motivated?Journal of Personalityand Social Psychology, 52, 749-758. Coke, J. S., Batson, C. D., & McDavis, K. (1978). Empathicmediationof helping: A two-stage model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 752-766. Foushee, H. C., Davis, M. H., & Archer, R. L. (1979). Empathy,masculinity, and femininity.JSAS Catalog of Selected Documentsin Psychology, 9, 85. (Ms. No. 1974) V. P. Fultz, J., Batson, C. D., Fortenbach, A., McCarthy, M., & Varey, L. L. (1986). Social evaluation and the empathy-altruism hypothesis. Journal of Personalityand Social Psychology, 50, 761-769. Heider, F. (1958). A psychology of interpersonal relations. New York: Wiley.
Altruism or Egoism? That Is (Still) the Question RobertB. Cialdini
Arizona State University Like Batson and Shaw, I find myself intrigued by the question of why we help. And, like these authors, I am especially interestedin the questionas it applies to an effect to thatis undeniableyet altogetherremarkable me. It is that, as a species, we have evolved both biologically and socioculturally so that, when we pay attention to another's suffering,we hurtin a way thatfrequentlyleads to helping. It strikesme that the most importantquestion in the scientific study of helping action today is "Whatis the natureof that hurt?" There are a couple of things we know for sure:The hurtis vicarious and it is emotional. That is, it is not the direct, somatic experience of pain that the sufferer often experiences; instead, it is a second-order, affective response to another's pain. Thus, to try to understandthe conceptual natureof this discomfort, it makes sense to look to the literature on the relationshipbetween vicarious emotional responses and the tendency to help. Along with colleagues such as Jim Fultz and Mark in to Schaller,I have examinedandcontributed this literature recent years. The consequence has been the emergence of certain points of agreementand disagreementwith Batson and Shaw's analysis. Beginning with the points of agreement, we sharethe view thatprosocialactionis susceptibleto a pluralityof motives. And specifically within the realm of vicarious, unpleasantemotion and helping, we seem to be readingthe literature similarly,in thatwe have identifiedthe same major candidates for explaining why exposure to a sufferingotherfrequentlyleads to helping. The languagewe use to label these vicarious emotional states differs somewhat, however. Accordingly, for clarity's sake it would be worth a brief descriptionof each. Reflexive distressrefersto a kind of self-oriented,highlyaversive, arousal-basedaffective state that results from exposure to cues of pain or suffering from a victim. Upon recognizingthe victim's distress, an observeris said to experience unpleasantarousaland to seek avenues for reduction of thatarousal.In the most clearly articulated helping model based on this motivational construct (Piliavin, Dovidio, Gaertner,& Clark, 1981), the observeris seen as possessing a cost-benefit orientationand, accordingly,as looking for the least costly means for arousalreduction. When helping his the victim (and, thus, terminating or hersuffering)affords the least costly means, it should be the behaviorof choice in the situation. A large body of work exists to supportthe causal influence of reflexive distresson helping, both in the realmof bystanderinterventionresearch(see Piliavinet al., 1981, for a summary)and in the arenaof nonemergencyaid (see Batson, 1987, for a review). A second relevant researchdomain documents the relationshipbetween what can be termednormativedistress and helping. Normative distress refers to an unpleasantfeeling of arising from the violation of social or personalstandards conduct. For 30 years, social scientists have theorized and documentedthe existence of certainsocial normsthatcounsel in favor of helping action (Berkowitz & Daniels, 1964; Gouldner, 1960). According to one such norm-that of social responsibility-helping-giving in the presence of a
needy other is positively regardedin our culture, whereas failing to help is negatively regarded(see Berkowitz, 1972, for a review of supportiveevidence). The desire to manage social approvaland disapproval,then, can be one mediator of the decision to help. In additionto social norms, Schwartz (1973) and his co-workershave investigatedthe concept of thatone holds personalnorms-the privatemoral standards for one's own conduct-and the impact of these personal norms on helping decisions. It is arguedthat helping often occurs in an attempt to avoid the self-sanctions and selfesteem damage that would attendthe violation of these private standards.In a variety of studies by Schwartzand others, measuresof personalnorms, along with moderatorsof these norms(such as denial of responsibility)have been predictive of helping (see Schwartz, 1977, for a review). With respectto either social normsor personalnorms, normative distressoccurs when the perceptionof another'sneed makes salient one or anotherhelping norm and the potentialhelper entertainsthe possibility of violating the norm to avoid the costs that helping might entail. Sadness is a third vicarious emotional response to another's sufferingthat has been shown to affect helping. Toa getherwith a set of talentedco-workers,I have undertaken programof researchto determinethe circumstancesunder which a feeling of temporarysadness or sorrow leads to enhanced aid. That research suggests that attention (especially empathicattention)to the plightof a needy othercan result in the negative affective state of sadness and that, because the act of helping has acquireda gratifyingmoodelevating characterin most normallysocialized adults, help can be used to dispel the sadness of the adult observer of suffering. As with persons experiencingreflexive and normative distress, an individualexperiencingtemporarysadness is thoughtto possess a cost-benefit orientation reducto the disagreeable affective state. That is, a saddened ing personis hypothesizedto engage in helpingactiononly to the extent that it, among the various behavioraloptions, is perceived to resultin the most desirable(i.e., sadnessreducing) combination of personal rewards and costs (see Cialdini, Kenrick, & Baumann, 1982, for a summaryof supportive research). The final vicariousemotionalresponseto another'ssuffering that emerges from a longstandingprogramof research into the determinants helping is empathy.Because in the of target article Batson and Shaw spend the majorityof their time detailing its workings, it is not necessaryto describe it furtherin this commentary-except to note how similarit is in crucial respects to the three other vicarious emotional responses I have discussed. I have observed Batson's conto ceptionof empathy(as it is associatedwith the opportunity help a victim) develop over the years so that not only is it conceived as a vicarious emotional response but-like the otherthree-it is deemedto be aversiveto possess andmerely one motivationalfactor taken into accountby a potential helper who is doing hedonic calculus (a cost-benefit analysis) to decide whetherto renderaid. BatsonandShawremind us, however, that a central difference remains: The motivational natureof empathyis said to be altruistic(i.e., ultimately orientedto the interestsof another)ratherthan egoistic (i.e., ultimatelyorientedto self-interest). Of course, Batson and Shaw do far more than assertthat empathicmotivationis, at base, altruistic.They review the findings of an extensive programof empirical work that is
consistent with the assertion and is inconsistent with the notion that the helping found in critical conditions of those studieswas causedby one of the egoistic motivators.Instructive, though, is the recognitionof how BatsonandShaw deal with and dispatch each of the egoistic alternatives.It is in one-at-a-timeorder, because that is how the empirical research was done. To eliminate the possibility that reflexive distressmay accountfor helping underempathicconditions, a set of studies was done to partialout the presenceof such aversivearousal,andit was foundthatenhancedhelpingstill occurred.To eliminatethe possibilitythatnormativedistress may accountfor helping underempathicconditions, a separateset of studieswas conductedto partialoutthe presenceof this sort of distress, and it was found that enhancedhelping still occurredagain. To eliminatethe possibility thatsadness may accountfor helping underempathicconditions, a set of studieswas done to partialout the presenceof sadness, andit was found that enhanced helping still occurredyet again. So, what we have is evidence of a helping residuumthat, presumably,is altruisticallymediatedbecause when we partial out (one at a time) the explanatorypower of each of the major egoistic alternatives, helping remains elevated. Although the conceptual and proceduralquality of the work for is itself is remarkable, me, the weaknessof this approach thatthe empathy-altruism hypothesisis supported indirectly, by default. This is of special concerngiven the one-at-a-time patternof assault on egoistic alternatives.That is, it is conceivable that, if reflexive distresswas eliminatedas a causal factor in enhanced helping in one set of experimentalproceduresthat a differentegoistic alternative,such as sadness, may have still been causal there. Similarly, if the likely causal influence of sadness was reducedin a differentset of experimentalprocedures,it is conceivable that anotheregoistic alternative,such as concernfor social approvalor selfregard,may havebeen active. And so on for each of the other combinationsof egoistic motives. The point is that to offer the strongestevidence for the altruisticmediationof helping undera certainset of conditions, it seems necessaryto conduct studies with designs thateliminate, simultaneously, the of each of the egoistic alternatives.This explanatorypower strikes me as an experimentaltask that has not yet been accomplished. It is perhapsfor this reasonthat Batson and Shaw suggest that,on the basis of the workof Batsonandhis associates,the empathy-altruism hypothesis can be offered as "tentatively true." Whatever the reason, I agree with them that inin terpretivecaution remains appropriate these mattersand thatmuch more is likely to be discoveredand writtenon this vital issue of humannature. Note Robert B. Cialdini, Departmentof Psychology, Arizona State University,Tempe, AZ 85287-1104. References
Batson, C. D. (1987). Prosocialmotivation:Is it ever trulyaltruistic? L. In Berkowitz(Ed.), Advancesin experimental socialpsychology (Vol. 20, pp. 65-122). New York:Academic. Berkowitz, L. (1972). Social punishments,feelings, and other factorsaf-
COMMENTARIES Gouldner, A. W. (1960). The norm of reciprocity:A preliminarystatement. AmericanSociological Review, 25, 161-179. Piliavin, J. A., Dovidio, J. F., Gaertner, S. L., & Clark, R. D., III. (1981). Emergencyintervention.New York:Academic. Schwartz, S. H. (1973). Normative explanationsof helping behavior:A Social critique, proposal, and empiricaltest. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 9, 349-364. Schwartz, S. H. (1977). Normative influences on altruism. In L. social psychology(Vol. 10, Berkowitz(Ed.), Advancesin experimental pp. 221-279). New York:Academic.
fecting helping and altruism. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 6, pp. 63-108). New York: Academic. Berkowitz, L., & Daniels, L. R. (1964). Affecting the salience of the social responsibilitynorm. Journalof Abnormaland Social Psychology, 68, 275-281. Cialdini, R. B., Kenrick,D. T., &Baumann,D.J. (1982). Effectsof mood on prosocialbehaviorin childrenandadults.In N. Eisenberg(Ed.), The development of prosocial behavior (pp. 339-359). New York: Academic.
The Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis: Paradigm and Promise
John F. Dovidio
Colgate University Batson and Shaw provide an eloquent summary of the hypothesis that reflects earlier formulaempathy-altruism tions of the framework(e.g., Batson, 1987; Batson & Coke, 1981) plus new ideas and developments.The version of the hypothesispresentedby Batson and Shaw empathy-altruism has, at its core, the centralassertionof all the previousversions-that "empathyevokes altruisticmotivation,"which has "the ultimate goal of increasing another'swelfare." In essence, the authorsproposethataltruisticbehavioris fundamentallydifferentfrom othertypes of intentionalbehaviors. The key concepts are defined with precision and the philosophical and theoretical assumptions are refreshingly explicit. These areessential steps in areasinvolvingtheoretical to controversy(see Tetlock& Levi, 1982). Compared earlier of the framework,Batson and Shaw elaborate expositions more on the natureof empathyand its antecedents.In addition, they are more explicit about the potential for a "pluralism" of motives, which relates to the proposition that "both altruistic and egoistic motives can exist simultaneously within a single organism."In this commentary,I focus not on the details of the argumentsand evidence that Batson and Shaw present, but ratheron what this approach has contributedmore generally and how it may shape research in the future. Scientific knowledge is cumulative. New theories, which generate new "facts" and knowledge, are rarely (if ever) entirely new. They frequentlyevolve from or are developed in oppositionto old theories. Batson and Shaw pay homage to the philosophic traditionsthat relate to altruismand consider alternativepsychological perspectives on empathy.A brief reviewhere of the recenthistoryof researchon helping, what the however, also provides a context for understanding to hypothesisis andwhat it contributes the empathy-altruism field. The study of altruismand helping has undergonea series of shifts and driftsin both focus and paradigmsover the past 25 years. Stimulatedby the infamous Kitty Genovese incident (in which 38 bystanderswitnessedthe stabbingdeathof a woman and did not intervene)and the subsequentwork of LataneandDarley(Darley& Latane, 1968;Latane& Darley, 1970), researchon helping from the late 1960s throughthe mid-1970s focused on situationaland social factorsthatpromote or, more often, inhibit bystanderintervention.In the mid-1970s, however, questions concerningwhen people do not help sharedthe empiricalstage with emergingtheoriesof why people do help. Many of the original studies and ideas of the 1970s concerning prosocial motives (Cialdini, Darby, & Vincent, 1973; J. A. Piliavin& I. M. Piliavin, 1973; Schwartz, 1974) evolved into relatively elaboratetheoretical models by the early 1980s (Cialdini, Baumann, & Kenrick, 1981; J. A. Piliavin, Dovidio, Gaertner, & Clark, 1981; Schwartz & Howard, 1981). Although these models posited different mechanisms(e.g., negative-staterelief, aversive-arousal reduction), one common theme was that apparentlyselfless behavior(helping) may be selfishly (egoistically) motivated. Cialdini and his colleagues discussed "altruism as hedonism";J. A. Piliavin and her colleagues hypothesized that "observationof an emergencyarousesa bystander"and that this arousal "becomes more unpleasantas it increases and the bystanderis thereforemotivatedto reduce it" (J. A. Piliavinet al., 1981, p. 22). Otherresearchers proposedthat the processes involved in egoistically motivatedhelpingmay roots. Forexample, Hoffman(1981) stated haveevolutionary that empathic arousal, arousal arising from the distress of others, "appearsto be a universalhumanresponsefor which there is a constitutionalbasis" (p. 128). It was in this context that nascent forms of the empathyaltruism hypothesis appeared. Batson and Coke (1981) observed: emotionproduces The ideathatempathic genuinely motivation contradicts egoisticassumpthe altruistic
tion of most, if not all, currenttheoriesof motivation.
Becauseegoismis a widelyheld andbasicassumpto that tion,it is prudent require theevidence supportbe beforeit is accepted. 184) (p. ing altruism strong In the context of prevailingtheories of egoism, the historic challenge of the empathy-altruism hypothesiswas to demonstratethat empathypromoteshelping in ways thatcannotbe accountedfor by self-interest. Over the past decade, Batson and his colleagues have crafteda numberof innovativestudies (summarizedby Batson and Shaw) that attemptto systematicallyrule out alternativeegoistic explanationsinvolving (a) aversive-arousal reduction, (b) empathy-specific
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