Engaging In Actions for Altruistic Motives Dissertation
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Engaging In Actions for Altruistic Motives Dissertation
Altruistic And Help Pick Up the Fallen Papers, Rather Than Rushing Off Toward Their Own Destinations.
In the train station waiting for your scheduled departure, you notice a woman drop her ticket. The man behind her picks it up and returns it to her. She accepts it with a smile of relief and hurries off to catch her train. This may be an ordinary occurrence, but it leaves us with the question of why the man helped the woman by returning her ticket. Was he hoping to make a connection and get her phone number? Was he hoping for a reward?
Did he want to look like a hero? Or, even though he was a stranger and not helping would not have affected him, was he just trying to make sure she made her train? When we help others, do we help because we truly care about the welfare of the other person, or are we helping with the hope of helping ourselves? This is the basic question in the debate about altruism. Altruism occurs when our motive for our behavior is entirely for the interest of others and is not motivated by self-interest. On the other hand, when we do something entirely for self-interest, we are being egoistic.
Imagine you bought the person sitting next to you in the train station coffee and a bagel. If you bought those treats for your neighbor entirely because you wanted to make that person happy, you would have acted altruistically. Your ultimate goal was the happiness of the other person. An ultimate goal is the true goal, the end toward which one is aiming. In these types of situations, we can also talk about another type of goal called an instrumental goal. Instrumental goals are the things we do to obtain our ultimate goal. Your instrumental goal was to buy the coffee and bagel and give them to your neighbor. As stepping stones toward our ultimate goals, instrumental goals may change depending on our ability to do them. If coffee and a bagel were not available, you might have told your neighbor a funny story or given him or her $5 to reach your ultimate goal of making that person happy.
When you engage in actions for altruistic motives, your ultimate goal is the welfare of the other person, not yourself. You might receive benefits for your action. The other person might show gratitude, your significant other might be impressed by your generosity and give you a kiss, or you might look good in front of your boss who is waiting in the train station with you. If you received benefits for an action, was your action still altruistic? Yes: when self-benefits are an unintended consequence of an action, that action may be truly altruistic. With altruism, the ultimate goal is still the welfare of others, and the action would have been done whether or not the self-benefits were present (Batson, 2010).
Using this terminology, actions undertaken for egoistic motives involve an ultimate goal of self-benefit (that kiss from your significant other) with the happiness of the other person being only an instrumental goal. If there had been another way to reach the goal of impressing your significant other, you may have taken that option instead. If you have ever volunteered so that you would have something to put on your resume, you engaged in volunteering for an egoistic motive. The type of volunteering you might choose to do may depend on whether you are egoistically or altruistically motivated (van Emmerich & Stone, 2002). Table 12.1 shows how our ultimate and instrumental goals are related to egoistic and altruistic motivations.
Table 12.1 Ultimate and Instrumental Goals of Altruistic and Egoistic Actions Motive Welfare of the Other Self-Benefits Altruistic Ultimate goal Unintended consequence Egoistic Instrumental goal Ultimate goal Based on Batson, 1990.
We engage in altruism, according to researchers, when we feel empathy for another person. By adopting that other person’s perspective, we are able to act in an altruistic way. This is called the empathy-altruism hypothesis (Batson, 1990; Batson, Duncan, Ackerman, Buckley, & Birch, 1981). You might know what it is like to be hurrying through a train station, hoping to make your train, so when you see someone else hurrying you may help because you have been in that person’s shoes. If we see that someone else is in trouble and needs help but do not adopt that person’s point of view, we feel not empathy but personal distress. For example, if someone slipped and fell in front of you and you did not feel empathy, you might instead be upset that you had to see blood or be inconvenienced by someone else’s clumsiness. In this case you might help so you do not need to see the injury or so you can be on your way quickly, not because you truly care about that person’s well-being. Egoistic (self-focused) motives might involve personal distress, a concern about how one might be viewed by others, or a desire to feel better about oneself.
The problem researchers face in examining whether we engage in activities for truly altruistic motives is that the action itself does not clearly show the motive behind the action. That coffee you bought for your neighbor in the train station may have earned you a kiss from your significant other, but was your action egoistically motivated by that potential kiss or altruistically motivated by a desire to make your neighbor happy? On the surface the action and reaction are identical.
To look into altruism, researchers set up situations in which participants who were feeling empathy for someone else could either help that person or get out of the situation without looking or feeling bad. For example, in one study the participants could help by taking the place of another participant (actually a confederate) and receive electrical shocks in her place. For some participants, escape from the situation, and therefore their own distress, was easy. For other participants, escape was difficult. The idea was to see whether people were motivated by true altruism (they would help whether escape was difficult or easy) or egoism (they would help only if escape was difficult). In this, and other studies like it, researchers found that when empathy was high people seemed to act in truly altruistic ways. Even when they could escape the situation or leave feeling happy or looking good without helping, they still helped (Batson et al., 1989; Batson et al., 1991; Batson et al., 1988). Altruism can even occur when it violates the principle of justice. When we feel strong empathy for someone, we may act to increase that person’s welfare even when that act will be unfair to others. An individual might cover for a co-worker whose mother has died even when that is unfair to another co-worker or the department in general (Batson, Batson, Todd, & Brummett, 1995; Batson, Klein, Highberger, & Shaw, 1995).
Altruism does vary from culture to culture (Cohen, 1972; Fehr & Fischbacher, 2003; Gurven, Zanolini, & Schniter, 2008). For example, altruism is higher in Thailand than in the United States. The reasons for such differences are likely quite varied, but in interviews Thais remarked that their Buddhist religion was an important factor in their desire to help others (Yablo & Field, 2007). Even when given the same resources, older individuals tend to donate more than younger people, suggesting that altruism is something one, in part, learns from culture (Rai & Gupta, 1996). This is not to say altruism is entirely based in culture. Evolutionary psychologists propose that altruism is at least partially genetically based and it is an interaction of genetic influences and cultural influences that determine altruism (Gintis, Bowles, Boyd, & Fehr, 2008; Knafo & Israel, 2010).
Reasons Behind Helping
People often have different reasons for helping others. Perhaps this young woman is just naturally helpful. Or perhaps she is related to this man and feels inclined to help him.
Besides altruism there are a variety of reasons we might help. One reason we might help is because we want others to help us. Recall the discussion in Chapter 8 of reciprocity as a persuasion technique. We generally want to get as much as we give and give as much as we get (Gouldner, 1960). You might give a friend a ride to the airport with the implicit understanding that your friend will give you a ride when you need one. Helping, then, is really a form of social exchange.
Helping may also be part of a general social norm (Staub, 1972). Recall from Chapter 9 that we often engage in behavior because we believe others do (descriptive norms) or because others think we should (injunctive norms). We may help, therefore, because we believe it is what others do and what others think we should do (Schwartz, 1975). For example, in a study of potential bone marrow donors, women who had a norm toward donating bone marrow and ascribed that responsibility to themselves were more likely to volunteer to donate than those did not have the norm or the feeling of responsibility (Schwartz, 1973). Norms for who we help may be different in different cultures. Indians were more likely than Americans to judge as immoral a failure to help strangers or others in only moderate or minor need (Miller, Bersoff, & Harwood, 1990), suggesting a stronger norm for helping in India than in the United States
Evolutionary theorists have suggested people help to gain benefits through promoting the genes of those related to them (Hoffman, 1981). Individuals are more likely to help their own child than a stranger’s child. We are more likely to help a sibling than a cousin, and more likely to help a cousin than a stranger. Generally, the closer the genetic similarity, the greater the likelihood of helping. This tendency allows our own genes to be passed on to future generations. This tendency is called kin selection (Essock-Vitale & McGuire, 1980).
Are there some people who are simply more helpful than the rest of us? Some similarities exist in those who are particularly helpful. Individuals who helped Jews in Nazi Europe had greater empathy and beliefs in the equality of people than those who did not help, though they were similar to others in most other personality characteristics (Oliner & Oliner, 1988). Helpful people tend to be high in self-esteem and self-efficacy (feelings of competence). Helpful people also tend to have a strong belief that their own actions will affect what is happening in the world (something called an internal locus of control) and attribute responsibility for making those changes to themselves (Schwartz, 1974). Moral development is also more advanced in those who are helpful (Piliavin, Dovido, Gaertner, & Clark, 1981; Rushton, Chrisjohn, & Fekken, 1981; Staub, 1978).
Altruistic types of helping increase with age. Preschool children show few instances of altruistic helping, while older children show these types of actions much more (Bar-Tal, Raviv, & Goldberg, 1982; Eisenberg, 1986). Children learn to help altruistically from adult models, particularly parents (London, 1970; Piliavin & Callero, 1990; Rosenhan, 1970).
Social Psychology in Depth: Helping After Natural Disasters
In 2005 Hurricane Katrina slammed into the U.S. Gulf Coast and brought death and devastation. More than one million residents of the Gulf Coast were displaced and over 1,800 lost their lives (Katrina Facts Online, 2010). Private donations for hurricane relief in the Gulf Coast were over 3.5 billion dollars (Center on Philanthropy, 2006) with Red Cross workers coming to help from all 50 U.S. states and the U.S. territories (Kelson, 2005). When asked, 77% of Americans say they want to help in the face of such disasters (Marchetti & Bunte, 2006). What determines helping in such disasters?
Our emotional reactions to disasters are important to our response. According to the empathy-altruism hypothesis we should help altruistically when we feel empathy for others. Feelings of empathy and sympathy are related to a desire to help and eventual helping (Amato, 1986; Amato, Ho, & Partridge, 1984; Marjanovic, Greenglass, Struthers, & Faye, 2009; Avdeyeva, Burgetova, & Welch, 2006). Personal distress also affects helping. Individuals who reported shock, horror, or sickness in response to major bush fires in Australia donated more money than those who did not report feeling these emotions (Amato, 1986).
As would be expected from kin selection theory, individuals with friends or relatives affected by a disaster are more likely to provide assistance (Amato, Ho, & Partridge, 1984) and those individuals in need of assistance tend to receive more help in networks that are more kin dominated (Beggs, Haines, & Hurlbert, 1996).
Women are more likely to provide assistance (Amato, Ho, & Partridge, 1984) and to both seek and receive it when they are the victims of a disaster (Beggs, Haines, & Hurlbert, 1996). Those with higher self-efficacy, more education, and greater religious attendance feel more positive responsibility for helping (Michel, 2007). Individuals with higher incomes are more likely to provide monetary help, perhaps because they have the resources to give (Amato, Ho, & Partridge, 1984).
Integration in one’s community and social network is important. Those who are involved in their community are more likely to help community members in need (Penner, Dovidio, Piliavin, & Schroeder, 2005). Studies of a couple of disasters, including Katrina, show that people with large social networks and networks that are dense, that is, have a lot of ties between members, are more likely to gain assistance when they need it (Beggs, Haines, & Hurlbert, 1996; Hurlbert, Beggs, & Haines, 2006).
To read more about how social scientists understand and explain the Hurricane Katrina disaster, see http://understandingkatrina.ssrc.org/.
Bystander Helping in Emergencies
In 1964 a woman named Kitty Genovese was murdered in New York City. According to the New York Times, 38 people watched for a half hour as she was stalked and stabbed. By the time anyone called the police, she was dead (Martin, 1989). Although later reports suggested some changes to the basic facts (neighbors may have heard but not seen her attack), the city and the country were horrified that people could be so apathetic in the face of an unfolding tragedy. Why, everyone wanted to know, didn’t someone help?
Examples of such incidents are not hard to find. In 2008, in Connecticut, Angel Arce Torres was hit by a car while crossing the street. He lay paralyzed on the sidewalk as cars and pedestrians passed by (Goren, 2008, June 11). In 2009 a 15-year-old girl at Richmond High School, in California, was gang-raped and beaten during a homecoming dance, while at least 10 observers watched and took pictures (Martinez, 2009, October 27). When we encounter such events, when do we help and what factors might lead us to turn away? Social psychologists decided to answer that question. There are five major steps to helping. At each step one can continue to the next step or fail to continue.
Step 1: Noticing an Event Is Occurring
We might be too distracted or rushed to notice when someone needs help.
Before people can help, they need to first notice that there is a situation present where help is needed. While you are sitting in the train station someone screams. If you are listening to an iPod or are in a place where there is a lot of noise, you might not hear the scream (Page, 1977). If you do not know the event is occurring you will not help.
Other than not physically hearing or seeing something, we might also be less likely to notice an event if we are in a hurry. In a study by Darley and Batson (1973) the researchers recruited seminary students to be part of a study supposedly focusing on vocational careers for seminary students. The students participated in the first part of the study and were asked to go to another building to complete the second part of the study. One third of the participants were told that they were late and needed to hurry over to the next building. Another third was told to go right over, they would be right on time. The final third was told they were early but could go over to the other building to wait. While walking from one building to the next, the participants encountered a man—actually a confederate of the researchers—sitting in a doorway who coughed twice and slumped down as they went by. Of the participants who were not in a hurry, 63% stopped to help the man. Of those who were told they would be right on time, 43% helped. Being in a hurry had a dramatic effect on helping. Of those in the high hurry group, only 10% helped. This study suggests that being distracted from one’s surroundings due to hurry decreases helping.
Step 2: Interpreting an Event as an Emergency
If a person has noticed an event has occurred, the next step is interpreting that event as an emergency. Is the person slumped in a seat at the train station asleep or ill? Is the person pulling to the side of the road having car trouble or stopping to discipline a whiny child? When an event is ambiguous, we are less likely to take the next step in helping. The man who clutches his chest and groans “heart attack” is fairly clearly having a heart attack. The man slumped in a seat at the train station is less clearly in need of help.
One way we try to figure out if someone needs help is to look to other bystanders. If others look alarmed at the sound of the scream in the train station, you might interpret the event as an emergency. If others look unconcerned you might interpret the same scream as nothing to worry about. When research participants were placed in a room and smoke was piped in through the heating vent, those who were alone reported the smoke fairly quickly, normally within 2 minutes of noticing it, with 75% reporting it within 6 minutes. Participants who were with confederates who showed no reaction to the smoke rarely reported the smoke. Out of the 10 people in this condition, only 1 (10%) reported the smoke after 6 minutes. (See Figure 12.1.) When three actual participants sat in the room filling with smoke, only 38% reported the potential emergency (Latane & Darley, 1968). Our tendency to collectively misinterpret situations in this way is called pluralistic ignorance. Pluralistic ignorance can be reduced if we know the other people we are with, perhaps because friends are more likely to discuss what is going on rather than rely on the nonverbal signal’s strangers are likely to send. In a study involving a potential emergency two friends responded more quickly than two strangers, though individuals waiting alone still responded
Engaging In Actions for Altruistic Motives Dissertation
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