John, a college student, spends two hours per week as a "Big Brother” to a nine-year-old boy whose parents are divorced.
Arnold, a firefighter, rescues an elderly women trapped in a fire.
Sandra agrees to donate her organs for transplant in the event of her death.
Marie makes a $50 contribution to charity and thus gets a chance to attend a banquet with a celebrity.
Bob attempts to save his six-year-old son from drowning.
Tom informs the manager of the bookstore about a college student who shoplifted a book.
Ann makes an anonymous donation of $1000 to her church's building fund.
Marty buys a raffle ticket from a charitable organization.
You’ll recognize many of the theories for why people help from the last assignment. Evolutionary psychologiss believe there is a biological element to helping. There are three ways that helping behavior may have been influenced by evolution. First is the notion of kin selection. Because the goal of evolution is to have one’s genes passed on into the next generation, people should be more likely to help relatives than nonrelatives. They should also be more likely to help similar appearing others, who may share some of their genes, than dissimilar others. The norm of reciprocity (from Assignment 8) offers another way that helping behavior may have developed. Because early people needed to band together to survive, people may have developed a norm of helping those who had helped them in the past. Finally, Herbert Simon suggests that those who were able to learn social norms quickly may have been more likely to survive and reproduce. People have been programmed to learn social norms easily, with helping and altriuism as some of those norms.
According to social exchange theory, whether or not you help is simply a matter of rewards and costs. If the rewards of helping (including feeling good and others having a positive impression of you) are greater than the costs, you’ll help. Otherwise, you won’t.
One debate in this area currently is whether there is in fact any such thing as altruism. Social exchange theorists suggest that people are always gaining something from helping others—even if it is as simple as feeling good about themselves or getting positive reinforcement from others. Dan Batson and his research group, on the other hand, suggest that sometimes people do help simply for the joy of helping, without consideration of themselves. His empathy-altruism hypothesis suggests that empathy is the determining factor in whether altruism will occur. If you don’t feel empathy for someone else, you will weigh the rewards and costs of helping and only help if the rewards are greater than the costs. If you feel empathy for the victim, however, you will help regardless of the costs.
It is interesting to consider the seemingly altruistic behavior of animals in light of this controversy. A few years ago, a female gorilla saved a 3-year-old boy who fell into the primate exhibit at the Chicago zoo. The gorilla carefully picked the unconscious boy up and took him to the animal trainers. In 1995, a tourist who was swimming with the dolphins off the Red Sea was attacked by sharks. The dolphins surrounded the man, leaping up and smacking the water with their tails and flippers, successfully keeping the sharks at bay. Were these animals acting altruistically? What do you think? Does true altruism exist, for humans or for animals?
Research on the altruistic personality offers several ways to help children develop prosocial habits. First, you should reward children with praise and smiles when you see them helping. Make sure not to focus on the reward or use too large of a reward, though, or the overjustification effect may occur. Help the child internalize prosocial behavior by pointing out what a good helper he or she is and how he or she likes to help. Children also learn about prosocial behavior by observing adults and others. Model helping behavior, and your children will follow.
Good moods and bad moods both generally increase helping, depending on the circumstances. When we’re in a good mood, we’re motivated to keep that good feeling. If helping others will cause us to continue to feel good, we’ll do it. But if it’s going to bring us down, we may try to avoid it. Cialdini’s negative state relief hypothesis says that the same thing occurs with bad moods—we’ll help if it helps us get into a better mood.
Situational factors affect helping behavior more than personality does. There are several situational factors we’ll discuss. The first of these is the urban overload hypothesis. This hypothesis explains the finding that people in urban areas are less likely to help. Specifically, it suggests that the reason people in cities are less likely to help than people in rural areas is that there is too much stimulation going on in the cities, so people try to keep to themselves. Residential mobility also seems to affect helpfulness. Time has a big effect on whether we help. Finally, there are cultural effects to helping, with people from poorer countries and Hispanic countries tending to be more helpful to a stranger.
Bibb Latané and John Darley’s research, inspired by the murder of Kitty Genovese in New York in 1964, suggests another reason people are likely to get less help in cities. While Kitty was being viciously attacked, 38 people in a nearby apartment complex heard her cries for help, but no one responded. The media explained this inaction in terms of “big city apathy”, but Latané and Darley thought there might be another, more social psychological, reason for people’s nonresponse.
Latané and Darley and their colleagues conducted a series of studies using different types of situations and participant populations, showing that people are less likely to respond to an emergency when others are present. Surprisingly, you may be more likely to get help in an almost empty alley than on a busy city street. They explained this finding in terms of diffusion of responsibility. When people know that others are present, they are likely to think that the others are just as responsible for helping as they are. You may have noticed a form of diffusion of responsibility if you’ve ever shared a telephone with more than one person. When the phone rings, everyone thinks it’s someone else’s turn to answer it. Social influence also plays a role in this bystander effect. If no one else is responding to the emergency, you may wonder whether it actually is an emergency. Finally, we may not help sometimes when others are present because we are afraid of what others may think of us and whether we might be judged negatively (audience inhibition).
Recently we (Harton, Latané, Rockloff, & Bourgeois, 1998) replicated a study (Latané & Rodin, 1969) in which either one or two men heard a female experimenter fall off a chair and cry for help. In our study, participants who were either alone or with an unresponsive confederate heard a male or female (me) experimenter they had just met fall and moan in pain. They couldn’t see the experimenter, however, and had to go around a curtain to check and see if he or she was okay. Regardless of whether it was my colleague or me calling for help, participants (both males and females) were more likely to respond when they were alone than when there was another person in the room. Thus, even though the Kitty Genovese story and research following from it has been discussed in classes and newspapers and on television, the bystander effect still occurs. The effect was smaller in our study than in the original, however. About the same percentage of people helped when alone in both studies (around 70%), but many more of our together participants (41%) as compared to the same situation in the original (7%) gave assistance.
Latané and Darley outlined five steps that people must go through in order to help in a situation. First, they must notice the event. Then they must interpret the event as an emergency, assume responsibility for helping, know how to help, and finally perform the helping behavior. Successful intervention requires a positive response at each step.
Finally, we talked about happiness and what percentage is caused by genetics, etc. We also discussed several ways that we can increase our happiness by doing intentional activities.
1. Distinguish between altruism and prosocial behavior.
2. Explain how the evolutionary approach explains prosocial behavior. Relate the concept of kin selection and the norm of reciprocity to this approach.
3. Discuss how social exchange theory explains prosocial behavior.
4. Describe Batson’s empathy-altruism hypothesis. Explain how it differs from social exchange theory. Predict people’s responses to those in need based on this theory.
5. Identify the role of personality and gender in helping behavior. Illustrate ways to increase the likelihood that children will grow to be helpful adults.
6. Describe how and why being in a good or bad mood can affect prosocial behavior. Identify the negative-state relief hypothesis.
7. Explain the urban-overload hypothesis and the effects of residential mobility.
8. Discuss the bystander effect. Identify the five steps to helping in an emergency and explain how problems at any one of the steps could lead to nonintervention. Identify the 3 factors that lead us to be less likely to help when others are present.
9. Identify what makes up our happiness and what situational factors increase it (and don’t). Describe ways that we can increase our own happiness.