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Flashcards in Relationships - contrast two theories of altruism Deck (12):


- type of pro-social behaviour
- aims to increase another’s welfare, regardless of personal cost or benefit


empathy-altruism hypothesis

Batson (1991):
- emotional response (empathy) when someone is perceived to be in need
- motivated to help the other person for their own sake (NOT to assuage one's own guilt)

Main study: Batson (1981)


empathy-altruism hypothesis - empathy

feelings focused on others rather than oneself (e.g. compassion, warmth, sympathy)


empathy-altruism hypothesis - thought process

- perception of a situation causes empathic concern, personal distress, or a recognition of a reward
- empathy‚ evokes altruistic motivation to reduce another person'€s distress
- personal distress evokes an egoistic motivation to reduce one€s own distress
- recognition of a reward causes egoistic motivations to benefit oneself (e.g. social recognition in the newspaper)
- the observer must be able to imagine how the person in need is feeling in order for empathy to be felt


Batson (1981)

- students in a university psychology class were tested individually
- each filled out a questionnaire about themselves
- they were led to believe that they were observing another student taking a memory test via a TV screen
- participants read a short description about Elaine
- 2 conditions: high empathy (description was manipulated so the participant could identify with Elaine), or low empathy (description was manipulated so the participant could NOT identify with Elaine)
- the feed of the student taking the memory test was actually a pre-recorded video
- every time the student was wrong, the student underwent an electric shock
- after the 2nd shock, participants were further split into 2 conditions -- they were offered 2 choices: take Elaine's place, or leave OR take Elaine's place, or watch her finish the test
- Batson found that in the high empathy condition most participants took Elaine's place, while in the low empathy condition most participants left UNLESS they were asked to watch her finish her test (in which case some took her place)


evaluation of Batson (1981)

- sophisticated methodology: experiment involved clever manipulations with operational ized variables
- sample bias: all participants were psychology students; they may have guessed the aim ofƒ the experiment and behaved accordingly
- Cialdini et al. (1973): it's not true altruism, but egoism, that Batson (1981) demonstrates


empathy-altruism hypothesis - evaluation

- empirically supported
- to some extent, can predict conditions in which altruistic behaviour occurs

- difficult to generalize findings of Batson (1981; 1991) to real life
- not possible to determine whether behaviour is egoistic or altruistic in real life
- empathy does not always precede altruism


kin selection theory

- survival advantage for altruism
- helping others in your family group increases the chances of genes that caused the helping behaviour to be passed on
- your individual chance of survival may decrease, but by helping a direct descendant, you increase the chances of your shared genes being passed on

study: Sime (1983), Madsen et al (2007)


Sime (1983)

- analysed accounts of how people fled from a burning building
- noted that individuals who were with unrelated group members tended to become separated while evacuating
- but those with family members tended to stay together, favoring group survival


Madsen et al. (2007)

- asked student participants in the UK to do a painful physical exercise for as long as possible
- promised the students that a particular biological relative would receive money according to how long he or she could stay in this position
- compared the length of time students were able to stay in the painful position and correlated this with how genetically close the relative was
- experiment was repeated in South Africa with students of Zulu origin, and with food offered instead of money
- found that UK participants spent more time on average for more closely related family members
- however, Zulu participants didn't differentiate between relatives by extent of closeness (results were similar regardless of closeness)


evaluation of kin selection hypothesis

- empirical support
- mathematical simulations show that kin selection may have aided human survival

- Dawkins (1989): proposed selfish gene theory -- stating that kin selection hypothesis describes egoistic behaviour, as it is not individual survival that matters but the gene's survival
- theory cannot explain why people help non-relatives
- human kinship patterns are not necessarily based upon
blood ties


kin selection vs empathy-altruism

- kin selection focuses on genes, without considering the complexity of human behaviour; empathy-altruism focuses on the human emotion empathy
- kin selection emphasizes self-sacrifice; empathy-altruism emphasizes benefits to other's well-being
- kin selection is partly based on egoism (Dawkins, 1989); empathy-altruism believes that truly altruistic personalities exist
- kin selection can account for people who behave more altruistically towards kin, but not why people can behave altruistically towards non-relatives; empathy-altruism can explain why people behave altruistically in empathy-invoking situations, but not why people who feel empathy may choose not to help
- very difficult to test evolutionary theories like kin selection, whereas empathy-altruism is more easy to verify in lab conditions

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