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Is there such thing as “true” altruism?

Helping with no expectation of reward
Selfish gene hypothesis: goal in life is to propagate gene
Are we capable of helping strangers? – moral code
Acts that are disguised as altruism for selfishness: charity
Hedonic rewards: good feeling when we help someone – powerful reinforcer
We want to obtain good feeling


Why do people help?: Learning

Reinforced to help others in past
Helping behaviour rewarded, selfish behaviour punished
Through modelling
Not altruistic, simply because they learned to help
Whether altruistic behaviour is motivated by good motivation is beside the point
Prosocial behaviour (altruism vs. non altruism) vs. altruistism


Why do people help?: Arousal

State of wanting to do something next
Arousal is ambiguous: often need to interpret what that is
Positive (excitement, sexual arousal)/Negative (fear, anxiety, anger)
Similar, overlapping physiological symptoms
When ppl attribute arousal to that person’s distress
Help the person reduce their own distress
Not truly altruistic approach



Helping is the by-product of individual’s conditioning history. “altruism” vs. “prosocial behavior”


Arousal model

cost-reward model (Dovidio et al., 1991; Piliavin et al., 1981).
1.Seeing distress of another person activates arousal
2. arousal is attributed to the other person’s distress – unpleasant
3.person is motivated to reduce the unpleasantness (by helping)


Cialdini et al. (1987) “negative state relief model”

Near someone in distress, we feel in distress
1.arousal, 2. labelling arousal with particular emotion, 3. label that’s generated is cued by situational features
could be triggered by my distress or other’s suffering
empathy: arousal interpreted as own distress – egoism – make me happier, not you


Cialdini et al. (1987) “negative state relief model”

ppl less likely to help someone if immediately before receive praise/money/if people led to believe that helping does not improve mood
Ppl provide help only to alleviate their own distress


Batson (1991) “empathy-altruism hypothesis”

1. negative state relief does occur, but can perspective-taking - “empathic concern”, 3. individual differences: subset of subjects, receiving rewards before helping opportunity did not diminish their likelihood of helping


Batson (1991) “empathy-altruism hypothesis”

Primary goal of improving other’s welfare as opposed to own
Perspective-taking: critical building block of empathy – necessary for true altruistic behaviour
Some do it more readily – relies on the stable individual differences
Helps facilitate empathic concern, sympathy, compassion
Without this, impossible to feel empathy


Batson (1981)

upcoming study involves people’s task performance under unpleasant conditions
Lots drawn – you win, other “subject” gets hooked up
After receiving several “trial” shocks, squirms with pain + tells experimenter about frightening childhood experience -It’s more unpleasant for her due to trauma than for the average person, but she’s willing to go on.
trade places with the other subject?


Batson (1981)

All subjects then learned that Elaine agreed to complete all 10 trials, and they were given the chance to help her by trading places after the second trial. easy-escape condition, subjects who did not help would not have to watch Elaine take any more shocks; in the difficult-escape condition they would


Batson (1981)

high in empathy – same regardless of easy/difficult escape
will help even if they have alternatives
low in empathy – only acted in difficult escape, only when they are forced to, when there is an escape they take it
Regardless of whether it was easy or hard to escape watching Elaine suffer, the empathic group wanted to help and said they would take her place.


Batson (1981)

Low empathy group most likely helped only because they’d feel bad having to sit through eight more shocks….to prevent feeling guilty
combo of high empathy + EASY ESCAPE that reflects true altruistic motivation
no p-t: personal distress - reduce own stress
p-t: empathy – reduce other’s stress


Cialdini’s new tack: “Oneness”

Become fused when other person is suffering
Extent to which they are fused in identity means they are helping to help themselves
Natural human connection – might seem altruistic
Understanding mechanism – lead to more altruism
Provide info on antisocial behaviour
society depends so much on credit + reward system
We need to figure out why ppl help so we can determine proper rewards or non rewards
Answering this question is a building block for society



Are eagerness to do good after doing bad reflect our need to reduce private guilt and to restore our shaken self image in our desire to reclaim A positive public image
Inner rewards of altruism helps offset negative moods


Feel good – do good

Happy people are helpful people
Having positive thoughts leads having positive associations of being helpful


kin protection

Genes dispose us to care for relatives
Genetic egoism fosters parental altruism
kin selection: idea that evolution has selected altruism toward ones close relatives to enhance the survival of mutually shared genes
biologically biased to be more helpful to those who look similar to us and who live near us
predisposes ethnic in group favoritism – root of countless historical and contemporary conflicts noted that construction is the enemy of civilization



Kitty: stabbed + sexually assaulted near her apartment
Lights were on + 38 ppl witnessed it + didn’t interfere
Ppl didn’t even call the police
Controversial – facts not clear


Latane & Darley study

Each subject taken into a small room, wanted other ppl to have it over the intercom
Assigned to speak with 1 other person, 2 others ppl, or 5 other ppl
One of them starts wheezing
What they did, influenced by group size


Latane & Darley study

By themselves, they got help immediately
In larger groups are slower and less likely to intervene
the larger the “group,” the less likely subjects were to go and help. When group size was 6, only 38% helped.


When will they help: Noticing

First you have to notice when someone needs help
Often we don’t even notice
In the study it was hard not to notice, this isn’t the case in everyday life


When will they help: interpreting

Properly interpret what they see/hear – play fighting or hurt
Whether or not ppl need help is ambigious
We look to other’s reactions for clues how to respond – leaves groups paralyzed
Pluralistic ignorance: everyone else is taking non action as a cue that no one needs help


When will they help: interpreting

Illusion of transparency: tendency to overestimate others ability to read our internal states
Often we appear quite effectively to keep our cool
Group members, by serving as nonresponsive models, influencing each other’s interpretation of the situation
Bystander effect: finding that a person is less likely to provide help when there are other bystanders
As # of ppl known to be aware of an emergency increases, any given person becomes less likely to help


When will they help: Taking Responsibility

All think that someone else would help
believe they were the only listener, 85% left the room to seek help
Those who believed for others also overheard the victim, only 31% went for help


When will they help: Taking Responsibility

They believed in emergency occurred but were undecided whether to act, Participants invariably denied the influence of the group
Diffusion of responisbility: under conditions of anonimity + no personal connections
More likely to help: Established groups, closer personal connections, groups where there are clear roles Compassion fatigue + sensory overload from encountering so many people in need further restraint helping in large cities across the world


When will they help: Taking Responsibility

bigger and more densely populated the city the less likely people were to help
In large cities gonna bystanders are more often strangers
cultures marked by amicable and agreeable were more helpful
Nations have often been bystanders to catastrophes even genocide


When will they help: Determining correct course of action

Help if clear on what to do
Someone with training knows how to help
Ppl who know cpr are more likely to help


When will they help: Social Awkwardness

social pressures not to stand out + embarrass yourself
because so many things have to be going right, it’s surprising anyone helps
all the effects are in the aggregate – all are susceptible to individual differences


Helping when someone else does

glimpse of extra ordinary human kindness and charity often trigger elevation: distinctive feeling in the chest of warmth and expansion that may provoke chills, tears and throat clenching and that often inspires people to become more self giving


role of time pressure/”cognitive load” (lots on your mind, little time to do it in)

Mind is operating on multiple tasks simultaneously
limits to what we can accomplish
When we’re at that limit is when something is gonna suffer (texting + driving)
person not in a hurry may stop and offered to help a person and the stress, in a hurry is likely to keep going
In their hurry, they never fully take time to grasp the situation
Hurry, preoccupied, rushing to meet a deadline