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It is a helpful action that benefits
other people without necessarily
providing any direct benefits to the
person performing the act, and may
even involve a risk for the person
Motives for prosocial behavior:
1. It was the right thing to do
2. “That was the way my
parents rised me”
3. “The Lord put me there for
1. Hope for a reward
2. Prospect of being
rewarded by spending all
eternity in heaven
There are two main emotional reactions that
occur when we observe someone in distress - personal
distress & empathic concern.
Empathetic Concern- focus upon the other persons
needs and motivated to reduce it.
Personal Distress- Concern with ones own discomfort
If empathic concern is low, reduce distress either by
helping or escaping
If empathic concern is high, only one option - must
In this, empathy motivates people to reduce other people’s distress,
as by helping or comforting
Empathy motivates people to reduce other’s distress
(Cialdini et al., 1981)
In this, people help others in order to relieve their own distress.
We genuinely care about the welfare of another person,we help
because such actions allow us to reduce our own negative ,
In other words,We do good thing to stop feeling bad.
In this,unhappiness leads to prosocial behavior, and empathy is
not a necessary component.
(Smith et al.,1989)
The Empathy Joy hypothesis states that the reason for someone
helping another in need are positive feelings associated with the
altruistic behavior. Helping others is a reward in itself because it
brings a person happiness and joy when they commit a helping
When confronted with a situation in which aid is needed a person
is more likely to help if the victim is similar to themselves. The
empathy joy hypothesis attempts to explain another reason why
someone will help another person in need
A helping response is more likely to occur when the helper will
receive positive feedback and reap the rewards of their help.
Genetic Determinism Model
Genetic Determinism: Helping as an Adaptive Response
Genetic Determinism Model —behavior is driven by genetic
attributes that evolved because they enhanced the probability of
transmitting one’s genes to future generations
Reciprocal Altruism—cooperative behavior among unrelated
individuals that benefits both individuals because when A
helps B, B is motivated to reciprocate at some point by helping
A, which also benefits the larger group to which both A and B
Evolutionary Factors in helping: The “Selfish Gene”: Kinship
selection is the tendency to help genetic relatives
–Strongest when biological stakes are particularly high
SOCIAL EXCHANGE THEORY:THE COSTS AND
REWARDS OF HELPING
This theory says that human interactions
are transactions that aim to maximize one’s
rewards and minimize one’s cost.
Persumes that people help only when the
rewards outweigh the cost.
A social norm is the accepted behavior that an
individual is expected to conform to in a particular
group, community, or culture. These norms often serve
a useful purpose and create the foundation of correct
Three norms are especially relevant to helping
behaviour : social responsibility , reciprocity , and social
1. A norm of social responsibility
States that we should help when others are in need
and dependent on us.
Eg:parents are expected to take care of
children,teachers are supposed to help
students,coaches to look after team members,co-
workers to assist eachother…
All societies have norms of responsibility,the
specifics of whom we are expected to help and
when vary from culture to culture.
Joan Miller(1994) has systematically compared the beliefs about the
social responsibility of Hindus in India and of the people of U.S.Hindu
culture emphazises the interconnectedness of people and the
obligations of the individual to the social group.In contrast,U.S culture
values individualism and self-reliance.As a result,Miller believes that
people in the U.S tend to view the decision to help others as a matter of
personal choice,whereas Hindus view the same decision to help in
terms of duty and moral obligation.
HINDUS HINDUS HINDUS U.S U.S U.S
PARENT FRIEND STRANGER PARENT FRIEND STRANGER
99 99 100 100 98 96
98 100 99 95 78 55
96 97 88 61 59 41
Percentage of subjects saying the person has the obligation to help
2. A norm of reciprocity: According to this principle,
people are likely to help strangers if it is
understood that the recipient is expected to
return the favor at some time in future.
Study by Regan(1971)- Laboratory experiment to test
Aim:To test whether participants who had received a favor
from another would be more likely to help this person than if
they had not received a favor.
Procedure:One participant and a confederate of the
experimenter were asked to rate paintings. In the
experimental condition the confederate left the experiment
and returned after a few minutes with two bottles of coca
cola. He had bought one for himself and one for the
participant. In the control condition, the participant did not
receive a coke.
When all the paintings had been rated the experimenter left
the room again. The confederate told the naive participant
that he was selling raffle tickets for a new car and that the
one who sold the most tickets could win $50. He then asked
the participant if he would buy some tickets and said that
even a small amount would help
Results:The participants in the experimental condition bought
twice as many raffle tickets than participants in the control
condition who had not received a favor first.
Evaluation:This was a laboratory experiment with a high
degree of control. It was possible to establish cause-effect
relationships between “receiving a favor” and “returning a
favor”. This supports the principle of reciprocity. There may
be issues of artificiality in the experiment as well as sample
bias. This limits the possibility of generalization. The findings
have been supported by observations in real life.
3.Norms of social justice: This norm states that
people should be helped by others only if they
deserve to be helped.
In a study,one member of a team was given more money
than his partner.This overbenefited person tended to give
some of the money to the partner in order to make their
rewards more equitable(Schmitt & Marwell,1972). In
addition , the overrewarded partner often chose to play a
different game when assured that this would result in a
more equal division of the rewards.In other words,not only
did he give away some of his own money to produce an
equitable division,but he also changed the situation to
avoid producing more inequity in the future.
These three norms are common in human societies.
They provide cultural basis for prosocial behaviour.
Research showing that people are more likely to help
relatives and friends than other people can be explained in
terms of social norms:We feel greater responsibility for those
we are close to and we assume that they will help us if a need
Research has documented the importance of several situational factors,
Including the presence of other people, the nature of physical
environment and the pressures of limited time.
i. Presence of others:The bystander effectoccurs when the presence
of others discourages an individual from intervening in an
emergency situation. Social psychologists Bibb Latané and John
Darley popularized the concept following the infamous 1964 Kitty
Genovese murder in New York City. Genovese was stabbed to death
outside her apartment while bystanders who observed the crime
did not step in to assist or call the police. Latané and Darley
attributed the bystander effect to the perceived diffusion of
responsibility (onlookers are more likely to intervene if there are
few or no other witnesses) and social influence (individuals in a
group monitor the behavior of those around them to determine
how to act). In Genovese's case, each onlooker concluded from their
neighbours' inaction that their own personal help was not needed.
A decision making analysis of prosocial behaviour suggests several
1. Diffusion of responsibility: refers to the decreased responsibility of
action each member of a group feels when he or she is part of a
group. For example, in emergency situations, individuals feel less
responsibility to respond or call for help if they know that there are
others also watching the situation - if they know they are a part of
the group of witnesses. In other group settings (in which a group is
appointed to complete a task or reach a certain goal), the diffusion
of responsibility manifests itself as the decreased responsibility each
member feels to contribute and work hard towards accomplishing
the task or goal. The diffusion of responsibility is present in almost
all groups, but to varying degrees, and can be mitigated by reducing
group size, defining clear expectations, and increasing accountability.
2. A second explanation for the bystander effect: concerns ambiguity in
the interpretation of the situation.Potential helpers are sometimes
uncertain whether a particular situation is actually an emergency.The
behaviour of other bystanders can influence how we define a situation
and react to it.If others ignore a situatuion, or act as if nothing is
happening,we too may assume that no emergency exists.The impact of
bystanders on interpreting a situation was demonstrated by Latane and
In this experiment,college men sat filling out a questionnaire.After a few
minutes,smoke began to enter the room through an air vent.Soon the
smoke was too thick that it was difficult to see and to bfreathe
normally.When the subjects were alone,they usually walked around the
room to investigate the smoke and 75% reported the smoke to the
researcher within 4minutes.In a condition were the real subject was in a
room with 2 confederates who deliberately ignored the smoke,only 10%
reported the noxious smoke.
3.Evaluation apprehension: describes the anxiety felt by an individual
who is performing a task in front of others or being judged by others.
The anxiousness arises from the thought of being negatively rated or
not receiving positive feedback.
For example, evaluation apprehension occurs in research participants
who are being rated or observed by researchers. This can cause issues in
research because the evaluation apprehension can cause the
participants to not respond in a manner that they normally would.
ii) Environmental conditions:The physical setting also influences
helpfullness.Much research has documented the impact on
helping of environmental conditions such as weather , noise level ,
and city size.
1.The effects of weather were investigated in two field studies by
Cunningham(1979). In one study,pedestians were approached
outdoors and were asked to help the researcher by completing a
questionnaire.People were significantly more likely to help when
the day was sunny and when the temperature was comfort.In 2nd
study conducted in a climate-controlled restaurant,Cunningham
found the costomers left more generous tips when the sun was
shining.Other researchers found that people are more likely to
help in sunny rather than rainy weather(Ahmed,1979) and during
the day rather than at night(Skolnick,1977).In short,weather makes
2.Noise:Several studies foundout that noisy conditions reduce the
likelihood of helping a stranger in distress.
In one lab study,for eg,it was found that noise decreased the likelihood
that students would help a person who had dropped some papers on
the floor(Mathews & Canon,1975).When only regular room noise was
present,72% of students helped,compared to only 37% when very loud
noise was present.
3.People in rural areas are helpful:Research shows that the size of the
hometown in which a person grew up is not related to helping,what
matters is the current environmental setting in which the need for help
iii) Time pressures:
Good Samaritan Study
(Darley & Batson ,1973)
Seminary students walking across campus to give talk on the
Good Samaritan (or career)
Late for talk or plenty of time
Passed man in doorway groaning & coughing
If plenty of time: > 60% offered help
If running late: ~10% help
situational forces have a strong influence on whether people help
–Samaritan parable: 53% helped;
–Career message: 29% helped;
(but not a significant difference).
People in a hurry, helpless–Even when thinking
The more time people had, the more likely they were to help
Personal determinants of helping
Personality - most personality variables are weak
predictors of helping.
Competence - those high in appropriate skills more
likely to help.
Attributions - influence whether help is given
The self & personal norms - personal norms for
helping based on personal values (e.g., religious
Emotion and helping
+ve feelings INCREASE helping
-ve emotions INCREASE or DECREASE helping
–Focus on self vs. the victim
Mood - people in good moods more likely to help.
Desire to maintain good mood
Focus on positive things
Positive expectation about helping (e.g., will be rewarded)
When does good mood not lead to helping?
Costs of helping are high(e.g., if helping will good mood)
Positive thoughts about other activities that conflict with helping
(e.g., on way to a party)
Bad moods - likely to help. Why?
Blame others for bad mood
Think of personal values that don’t promote helping (put self first)
When does bad mood lead to helping?
If feeling guilty
Interpersonal determinants of helping
Females are more likely to receive help.
Attractiveness - more likely to help attractive others.
Similarity – increases attractiveness & empathy.
Closeness - more likely to help those we know.
Deservingness - help those we judge as deserving our help.
More helpful in broader public sphere, toward strangers and in
Help women more than men.
More likely to help in the family sphere, in close relationships, and in
situations that require repeated contact.
More likely to receive help.
People are more likely to help attractive individuals than unattractive
Study done at FSU. Attractive vs. unattractive female victim, asked for
money, needed for student health.
Real donations were much smaller than hypothetical
– People claim to be more generous and helpful than they really are
Attractiveness influenced actual helping but not hypothetical helping
Severe victims get more help
Pretty women get more help when need is big
How can we increase helping?
diffusion of responsibility
concerns about competence to help
uncertainties of obstacles
Educate about bystander indifference
Teach moral inclusion
Increasing helping behaviour
Reduce ambiguity, increase responsibility - reduce anonymity
Guilt & concern for self-image - use of compliance tactics
Attributing helpful behaviour to altruistic motives - overjustification
Learning about altruism