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Chapter 13 Altruism and Prosocial Behavior

How Do Personal Factors Influence Helping?

Evolutionary Factors
According to the evolutionary theory, individuals act in an
altruistic way in order to ensure the survival of their genes
Kinship selection
The idea that were more likely to help those we are genetically related
to (self-sacrifice)

Evidence For Kinship Sleection

People are more likely to help those who are similar and
emotionally close to them
More likely to help those who are likely to pass on their genes vs.
poor health

Ecidemce for Reciprocal Prosocial Behavior

Will help friends and neighbours that are likely to reciprocate
when we need them

Reciprocal altruism: acting in a way that benefits an unrelated
individual at some expense to oneself, with the expectation that the
recipient will return such assistance in the future
People show more empathy and prosocial behavior as they mature
altruistic individuals share some common traits: empathy and moral

the ability to understand other peoples perspectives and
respond emotionally to other peoples experiences
empathetic people engage in more prosocial behaviour (donating
money/the poor)

Moral Reasoning
a personality factor that describes the extent to which a persons
willingness to help depends on larger moral standards rather
than the persons needs and the expected consequences for him
or her helping
the use of higher-level moral reasoning is associated with greater
empathy & altruism
parental influence of prosocial behaviour can influence a childs
moral reasoning
some religious teachings emphasize importance of engaging in
co-operative and prosocial behaviour
other religions emphasize importance of brotherly love and
encourage people to treat others as they would like others to
treat them
religious beliefs are associated with more altruistic behaviours
religion does not always lead to more helping; in fact people who
hold strong religious beliefs are very likely to help those who
they believe are deserving, but not to whom they deem

How Do Situational Factors Influence Helping

Decision-Making Process Model
a number of features of emergencies make it difficult to get help
o emergencies are rare and unusual events, people dont
have a lot of experience in handling emergencies, thus
may not have direct personal experience in how to cope
o emergencies differ widely, even when people have direct
experience in handling one type of emergency, theyre not
likely to have experience in handling other types of
o emergencies are unforeseen, they occur suddenly and
people arent able to think through various options and
develop plans of action
The model describes helping behaviour as a function of five
distinct steps:
o Notice that Something is Happening
Hard because people are often self-focused
Especially hard in big cities used to blocking out all
kinds of stimuli
Some people just arent aware
o Interpret it as an Emergency
Clear cues of distress increase lilihood for help
Pluralistic ignorance: if others arent reacting, there is no
emergency. In unfamiliar situations (not sure if someone
needs help) look to crowd if each person is looking to
others though, and no one wants to be seen as the person
who overreacts, no help may be given
o Take Responsibility for Providing Help
diffusion of responsibility: the belief that other people
present in a situation will assume responsibility, which
contributes to the bystander effect
bystander effect: the situation whereby people are less
likely to help in emergency situations when there are other
people present than if the person who could help is alone,
resulting in a decreased likelihood of help being given
o Decide How To Help
People with relevant skills/training help more than those
who dont
o Provide Help
Difficult due to audience inhibition (people fear looking
stupid/overly cautious)
Being familiar with context and other people is important

Strategies for Getting Help

Identify someone in the crowd and call out to them
Clearly label the situation as an emergency Im having trouble breathing
eliminates misinterpretation of the situation

Arousal/Cost-Rewarded Model
a model that describes helping behaviour as caused in part by the
physiological arousal that people experience when they see someone in
need of help and in part by their calculation of the costs and rewards of
providing such help
Individuals who experience shock and distress at watching something
unpleasant may be motivated to help simply to reduce their own distress

Impact of Benefits
Benefits or rewards of prosocial behaviour increase helping
Certain types of rewards can lead to decrease in helping
o Children given pennies or praise for helping

Good mood effect
o When people are in a good mood they are more likely to help
Seeing someone in need can ruin our good mood so help them (to
maintain our mood)
Good mood = think of positive of helping (benefits) vs. the negative (costs)

Bad Moods
bad moods can increase helping because of our desire to make up for
whatever we did that caused this negative feeling, to restore positive self-
also increase helping when we arent trying to make up for bad behaviour
important exception: when we have been socially excluded, we are less
likely to help

people can increase their altruistic behaviour when such behaviour is
modelled for them by their parents, peers, or even media figures
Gives us role models to follow, shows us the rewards of helping, and
reminds us of the value of helping to society

Environmental Factors
location of the emergency influences prosocial behaviour
people in small towns are more likely to help than people in urban areas
Urban overload hypothesis
o the hypothesis that people who live in urban areas are constantly
exposed to stimulation, which in turn leads them to decrease their
awareness of their environment

Does Pure Altruism Exist?

Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis
the idea that when we feel empathy for a person, we will help that person
even if we incur a cost in doing so

Impact of Empathetic Motives

empathetic motives can be created simply by imagining ones self in
another person's place, which in turn creates helping behaviour

Impact of Feeling Similar

feeling similar to someone else can also increase empathy, and in turn,
Empathy is particularly strong predictor of helping behaviour when the
helper and the target belong to the same cultural group

Negative-State Relief Hypothesis

people are motivated to help others in order to relieve their own negative
views helping as egoistic because prosocial behaviour is seen as being
motivated by selfish motives

Helping Occurs to Relieve Ones Own Bad Mood

People in a bad mood will be motivated to help others in order to make
themselves feel better; if they can feel better in some other way, they wont
Helping Wont Occur if Mood Improvement is Impossible
If helping can lead to an improvement of mood, people are motivated to
help others only when they believe that helping will relieve their bad

Comparing the Models

both models agree that at times, people engage in helping for egoistic reasons
empathy-altruism hypothesis describes the self-benefits of helping as
unintended consequences
negative-state relief hypothesis describes these benefits as the primary
motivation for helping
What are these benefits to the self?
1) reduction of aversive arousal
2) fear of punishment for not helping
3) desire for reward

Reduction of Aversive Arousal

Although people who dont feel a connection to the victim help only when
theyre forced to continue listening to the suffering, people who feel
genuine empathy help regardless of whether they have an easy or difficult
escape from the situation

Fear of Punishment for Not Helping

Helping would be motivated by a desire to not feel lousy about ones
behaviour, out of fear of feeling guilt or ashamed

Desire for Reward

People may behave altruistically only when they believe that others will
notice, and think less of them if they dont egoistic

Predicting Long-Term Helping

helping that is motivated by empathy is most likely to lead to long-term

Who Gets Help When They Are In Need

Person Factors
women more likely to receive help than men
men are more likely than women to worry about how people will react if
they request help

children are very willing to seek help, because they are used to receiving it
often; as children get older, they realize that requesting help can show
weakness and dependence on others, therefore becoming more reluctant
to seek help

Attractive people get more help

Social Norms
Norm of Reciprocity
the idea that we should help those who are in need of assistance, because
they will then help us in the future

Norm of Social Responsibility

the idea that we have an obligation to help those who are in need of
assistance, even if the helper has no expectation of later receiving help
from the person being helped
people are especially likely to help another person if they see the need for
help as by something beyond the persons control
We determine who is deserving based on the phenomenon of belief in a
just world assume that good things happen to good people and bad
things happen to bad people

Relationship Factors
were most likely to help those who are similar to us

people are more likely to help those they/know care about than strangers
exchange relationship
o a relationship in which people desire and expect strict reciprocity

But Not Always

Self-evaluation maintenance model
o the theory that our self-concept can be threatened if someone
performs better than us on a task that is relevant to our sense of

The Downside of Receiving Help

we react negatively to receiving help when
o it makes us feel inferior/dependent on the helper (e.g. African
Americans believe help is offered because of their ethnicity and
perceived need, vs. Anglo Americans)
o the help comes from people who are similar to ourselves, especially
if theyre helping us with a task that we really care about
o we dont believe well have a way of repaying the help