Social psychology (psychology)/Lectures/Prosocial/Notes

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Introduction edit

This lecture introduced socio-psychological theory and research about prosocial behaviour and altruism. These are different concepts, with altruism being a subset of prosocial behaviour in which a prosocial behaviour is undertaken without any thought of personal reward. Prosocial behaviour refers to any behavioural act which further the interests of a group by improving its cohesion, quality of relationships, etc. What is deemed prosocial by one group may be considered by other groups to be antisocial. Antisocial behaviours are those judged to be destructive to group relationships.

An important psychological and philosophical issue for debate is whether there is any such thing as true altruism. The closer one looks at the possible explanations and motivations for prosocial behaviour, the more it seems that its possible to find non-altruistic explanations for prosocial behaviours. This is a rich topic for debate. A related issue is whether altruism is only evident (if at all) in humans or whether other animals are also altruistic e.g., what do you think about this video of a gorilla rescuing a kid at a zoo (1 min)?

Collectively, prosocial behaviour contributes to social capital, a concept which is explored in the Australian zeitgeist tutorial.

Prosocial behaviour can be contrasted with antisocial behaviour which are acts that undermine or otherwise negatively affect social relations within a community.

When would you help? edit

  1. A collapsed stranger in the street?...
  2. Some rubbish on a path?...
  3. Donate blood? organ? money? time?...
  4. Hitchiker?...
  5. Someone whose car is broken on the side of the road?...
  6. ...

What factors influence whether you help or not and why?

Prosocial behaviour is not just about helping edit

The Baumeister and Bauman (2008) textbook criticises many other social psychology textbook chapters on prosocial behaviour for being overly focused on "helping" and neglecting focus on the prosocial role of obedience and conformity (Note that we discussed obedience and conformity earlier in the lecture on social thinking and, more specifically, on social influence).

Reasons for prosocial behaviour edit

Reasons for prosocial behaviour include:

  • Self-interest
  • Improve social status
  • Reciprocity - direct or indirect
  • Conformity (e.g., to fairness - most people want a balance between underbenefitting and overbenefitting)
  • Rule of law (but also note that some acts of disobediance (e.g., civil disobediance) may ultimately prove to be prosocial rather than antisocial. In this respect, Kohlberg's stages of moral development help to give insight to "higher law")
  • Evolutionary (e.g., kin selection, which is stronger in more life-threatening situations)
  • Altruism (is it motivated by empathy for the other; or efforts to relieve one's own personal distress about the other person being distressed?)

Forgiveness edit

Given that often "bad" is stronger than "good", forgiveness of another for causing harm can be a particularly notable prosocial contribution. Forgiveness involves letting go of anger, resentment, and blaming of one's emotional distress as caused by another's antisocial behaviours.

Game theory edit

In the previous lecture on Groups and Relationships, the commons dilemma and the prisoners' dilemma were discussed as examples of iterative, experimental studies conducted to examine the sociodynamics of competition and cooperation. The collective results of our myriad relational games might be considered as a group's social capital. The net results of various interactions can be loosely understood as negative, neutral, or positive - see the helpful tables and diagrams here: [1]. Also of relevance here is transactional analysis, Robert S. De Ropp's "The Master Game", Manning-Clark's straighteners and enlargers, etc. Essentially these and other such "game theory" schemes seek to describe and understand common sociodynamic relational patterns and their consequences.

Obedience and conformity edit

Without obedience and conformity to a rule of law, our social lives would be far more chaotic. Thus, obeying and conforming to social rules is vital for creating and maintaining a community. However, communities evolve and change, thus rules and norms often need to similarly evolve. And there is a danger in a group members becoming overly compliant and conforming, such as classically illustrated in Milgram's 1950's studies of obedience. Also, see Asch's conformity experiments. A more recent example of obedience is a TV show in which contestants were asked to torture. 80% of contestants went to the very end - i.e, administered the ultimate, potentially lethal shock ([2] BBC News, 2010; [3], 2010).

Motivations for helping edit

Batson (1994):

  • Egoism – helping benefits the helper – receive rewards or escape punishment.
  • Altruism – helping benefits others – no need for reciprocity.
  • Collectivism – helping benefits the in-group.
  • Principalism – help because of a moral imperative

Empathy-altruism hypothesis edit

Batson (1991) proposed that empathy motivates people to reduce other people’s distress by helping or comforting:

  • If low empathy, people can reduce their own distress by escaping the situation
  • If high empathy, emotional response corresponds to feelings of other person redue our distress by reducing other person's distress

Negative relief state theory is the proposition that people help others in order to relieve their own distress.

Personal determinants of helping edit

  • Personality - weak predictor, but consider "warmth"
  • Competence - more skilled you are in the area of need, the more likely you are to help
  • Attributions - recall from social thinking that we have a tendency to blame others' problems on their selves (as opposed to their circumstances, whereas we have a tendency to find external explanations for our own distress. We generally are more likely to help someone if we perceive that their circumstances were externally caused rather than caused by themselves (and thereby "deserved" - see the Just World Hypothesis)
  • Personal norms - personal norms for helping based on personal values (e.g., religious beliefs). If we have "helpfulness" as part of our self-concept, then we need to act in consistent ways otherwise we experience cognitive dissonance.

Emotion and helping edit

In general, positive mood increases likelihood of helping, whereas negative mood tends to decrease likelihood of helping. Note, however, that there are logical exceptions to this tendency (e.g., if it will be costsly to one's positive mood one may not help, or if it will relieve one's negative state, one may be more likely to help).

Interpersonal determinants of helping edit

  1. Females are more likely to receive help
  2. Attractiveness - more likely to help attractive others.
  3. Similarity - we are morely likely to help similar others (similarity increases attractiveness & empathy)
  4. Closeness - more likely to help those we know.
  5. Deservingness - help those we judge as deserving our help (e.g,. based on reciprocity and attribution).

Gender edit

  1. Males are more likely to help in "dramatic" circumstances, and broader societal spheres, and they are more likely to help women than men
  2. Females are more likely to help in "mundane" life, in the local sphere, and are more likely to receive help

Bystander effect edit

The larger the group, the less likely people are to help because of:

  1. Diffusion of responsibility: the reduction in feeling responsible that occurs when others are present.
  2. Pluralistic ignorance: looking to others for cues about how to behave, while they are looking to you; collective misinterpretation.

Five steps to helping edit

Five steps (or barriers) to helping have been proposed (Latane & Darley):

  1. Notice that something is happening
  2. Interpret meaning of event - Pluralistic ignorance
  3. Taking responsibility for providing help - # Diffusion of responsibility
  4. Know how to help
  5. Provide help

Good Samaritan study edit

Darley and Batson (1973)'s classic study found that time (in a rush or not in a rush) had the largest effect. Those in a rush were much less likely to help. Summary of the study.

Bystander-calculus model edit

Piliavin, Dovidio, Gaertner, and Clark (1981) offer a social exchange theory model for the bystander effect, according to which bystanders calculate the (perceived) costs & benefits of providing help in three stages:

  1. Physiological arousal - e.g., witnessing an emergency - the higher the physiological arousal, the greater chance of helping.
  2. Labelling the arousal - type of label influences the kind of help offered; e.g., is arousal labelled as personal distress or empathic concern? - usually labelled as personal distress.
  3. Evaluating the consequences - weigh up costs of helping, choose action that reduces personal distress at lowest cost. Costs might include getting hurt, inconvenience, embarrassment etc.

How can we increase helping? edit

  1. Reduce ambiguity
  2. Reduce distractions (or make the need for help more obvious)
  3. Reduce pluralistic ignorance
  4. Increase personal responsibility (reduce diffusion of responsibility), e.g., reduce anonymity
  5. Reduce concerns about competence to help
  6. Reduce audience inhibitions
  7. Reduce uncertainties of obstacles
  8. Educate about bystander indifference
  9. Model helpfulness e.g., positive models in the media.
  10. Teach moral inclusion - perception of certain people as inside/outside our bounds of moral or ethical concern
  11. Guilt & concern for self-image - use of compliance tactics
  12. Learning about / socialising altruism

Summary and conclusion edit

  1. Prosocial behaviour includes conformity, obedience, and cooperating with others, but may also include disobedience.
  2. Human culture depends on people following rules.
  3. Following the rules of society and culture generally brings immense personal and social benefits.
  4. Is altruism unique to humans?
  5. Cultural and social variables and situational contingencies can significantly influence whether a person performs prosocial or antisocial behaviours

External links edit

  1. Pluralistic ignorance - Why you won’t raise your hand in the classroom