Altruism and Bystander Behaviour
Wispe (1972) : “Defined Pro-social Behaviour as any action that benefits another
regardless of the benefits or self-sacrifice of the actor.”
Altruism defined: “…Voluntarily helping someone at a personal cost to oneself.
E.g. Time, Money, Effort. Giving assistance to someone else.”
Therefore altruism and helping are forms of pro-social behaviour.
N.B. Altruism is the action of self in the interest of others (Selfless)
Egoism is acting in self interest.
Explainations of pro-social behaviour
Here altruism represents a contradiction. Natural selection is the process by which we pass on genes, therefore helping someone else to do this and survive represents a threat to our genes survival. This is known as the “Paradox of Altruism.”
Kin selection theory is highlighted in Darwin’s paradox which argues that by assisting relatives you facilitate your own genes being passed on as they share common genetic material. Therefore the closer the relationship the more you will put yourself out to assist. Refer to Hamilton (1963, 1964).
Similarly you can define altruism as that which assists / increases the individuals chance of reproduction – reproductive fitness.
Stuart (1991) argues that in order to recognise kin animals use:
Spatial proximity – Family groups stay together;
Phenotype matching – Related individuals have certain
characteristics such as smell, appearance or behaviour in common.
Evaluation of Kin Selection and Altruism.
Female ground squirrels mate with more than one male therefore litters contain full and half siblings Research shows altruistic behaviour here as half sisters defend against predators’ and territorial disputes more than their full siblings.
(Holmes and Sherman – 1982)
Major Histocompatibility Complex
Genetically similar mice have similar odours which it is thought leads to reciprocal altruism.
Importance on Kin Selection:
A number of reasons exist for including kin selection in altruism:
1. Resource allocation to your own offspring rather than another’s. i.e. Brood Parasitism.
2. Ease of recognition in time of threat.
3. Genetic diversity at time of choosing a mate.
Degree of relatedness:
Helping a distant relative has less benefit than helping a close relation.
In addition to care for offspring and warning signals there is Eusocial Insects to consider as examples of this activity in which ants and termites etc contain workers that help raise their offspring and even sacrifice their lives to defend them despite being unable to reproduce themselves.
Trivers (1971) è A Loan that may be repaid
Wilkinson (1984) found that unrelated vampire bats regurgitated food for one another on returning to the nesting site. This was universally reciprocated without conscious action.
Tit for tat strategy might be employed for cheats of altruism.
Axelrod and Hamilton (1981) argued for rewarding cooperation and discouraging defection behaviour. Further argued in numerous examples in Dawkins (1976) ‘The selfish gene’
Evaluation of Reciprocal Altruism:
Fitting the facts:
Manning and Dawkins (1998) state vampire bats a good example due to:
1. Bats remember cheating and therefore do not reciprocate to these individuals over prolonged periods.
2. They are able to offer food with differential benefit and cost should a familiar bat be starving.
3. Failing to obtain a feed can happen to any bats and therefore altruism acts as an insurance policy as being benefited by others in a time of need.
Delayed Reciprocal Altruism:
Time period between giving and receiving may be significant. N.B. Reciprocal Altruism cases being documented are rare. It’s more common to find examples of mutual co-operation between animals.
E.g. Baboon coalitions – Packer (1977)
Vampire Bat Feeding – Wilkinson (1984)
Other explanations of Apparent Altruism
Mutualism (or return effects)
Some cooperative relationships may even involve individuals from differing species. E.g. cleaner fish survives by removing parasites from other species.
Caraco and Wolf 1975 – lionesses share kills, though not necessarily equally.
Grier and Burk 1992 – Honeyguide bird leads people in Africa to bee hives.
Induced or manipulated altruism
Sometimes referred to as ‘manipulated’ or ‘social parasitism’ e.g. cuckoo manipulating cries of host birds chicks.(Moksnes and RǾskaft 1995)
Holldobler (1971) – larvae of the Atemelles beetle mimics the begging behaviour of ants in order to obtain food from passing workers.
Evaluation of Alternative explanations of apparent altruism.
Honeyguide birds are used to find African honeybee hives by humans who in turn use human help for greater access to hives and smoke to reduce chances of bee stings.
Why does manipulated altruism work?
What looks like altruism on the part of the host animal is actually manipulation and deception on the part of the recipient.
Children learn pro-social behaviour from parents / adults at many opportunities.
Nancy Eisenburg (1989) – Children learn to be helpful by being given opportunities like taking care of pets and teaching younger siblings etc. Provided children do not feel that they are being coerced into ‘being good’ these opportunities encourage them to be altruistic.
Batson’s Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis
Empathy è a close understanding that one person has for the feelings of another.
e.g. two people sharing a common traumatic experience
Commentary on empathy-altruism model:
Initial studies by Batson show that people help for other reasons than reduction of personal distress. Fultz et al (1986) argues people show empathy to others to escape social disapproval.
Batson and Oleson (!991) contradict the assumption that human nature is fundamentally self serving.
The alternative of examining the long term commitment to altruistic behaviour found in many people may have alternative explanations e.g. demand characteristics that would account for participant behaviour in studies without involving the complexities of perspective taking and empathic concern.
Evolution and altruism:
Kruger (2003) compared the influence of altruistic factors, egoistic factors, and reciprocity in order to predict participants’ intentions to perform risky rescue behaviour. Reciprocal altruism and kinship were the strongest predictors followed by empathic concern to a significantly less extent.
Cialdini et al. (1997) believes that people help other people not out of empathic concern but because they feel more at one with them. This suggests that empathy is rooted in finding that part of oneself that is in another person and help it. The more we see of ourselves the more we would like to help therefore this eliminates any thought of altruism.
The Negative-State Relief Model – Cialdini et al (1987)
The Negative State.
States that when we experience a negative state (e.g. sadness) we are motivated to relieve our own state by helping others which we deem rewarding.
This being essentially egoistic.
Negative state relief:
Enhancement of our own mood is the primary goal of any altruistic behaviour
The Negative State Relief Model.
Commentary : Negative-State Relief Model
Isen and Levin (1972):
10 cents placed in a phone booth
Sheef of papers dropped as customers emerged from phone booth.
84% of those who had picked up the money helped with picking up the papers.
4% of those who did not get the money helped with the papers.
Altruism or egoism?
Batson (1991) argues that we feel empathic concern when we have a close attachment to the person in need. Here we reduce stress by helping or leaving the scene.
Most experiments have been conducted in a laboratory setting in mainland USA and therefore have limited external and ecological validity.
The influence of others (Bystander effects)
Latane and Darley (1970) first social psychologists to take an academic interest in this after the tragic murder of Kitty Genovese.
They offer two theories:
Diffusion of responsibility.
The more bystanders the less individual responsibility.
If no one else acts the individuals do not see the situation as one requiring action.
Latane and Darleys Cognitive Model
Bystander effects in the laboratory:
Several concerns regards lab studies.
Most studies are emergencies and require immediate responses. Most pro-social behaviour does not occur in emergencies. However, many psychologists have examined these situations in order to examine pro-social behaviour.
In one series of experiments 52 students anonymously discussed the problems of college life conducted through intercom. Some participants were told that discussion would involve one other participant and the others were told that two or five would be involved
Early in each discussion one participant went on to state that they were epileptic and went on to have a seizure
85% of those who thought they were only people involved went to find help.
When someone else is present this fell to 65% and when 4 others 31%.
Also response times fell, refer to table below.
Bystander effects in the natural environment
Irving Piliavin et al (1969)
Conducted experiment on New York’s Subway system.
One student behaved as if they were disabled;
Found assistance on 90% of trials;
Students were made up with ugly birthmarks covering their face;
Assistance rates fell instantly to 61%;
Students wearing a jacket that smelled of alcohol and carrying a brown paper bag;
Assitance rates fell to 20%
This supports “Wieners Theory” Bystanders see others as responsible for their own situation.
Latane and Darley (1970) found that when a person dropped some books in a lift probability of receiving help decreased with the number of people present.
40% when one other passenger
15% when six others.
Characteristics of the person in need.
Several studies state that men are more likely to help women in distress than women are men. Possibly the result of fears about personal safety.
Conclusions: (Piliavin et al. 1981)
1. We are more likely to help people that are like us and that we
perceive are in a situation that is not their own fault;
2. We are more likely to help those we perceive less able to help themselves;
3. We are more likely to help those to whom we are physically attracted;
4. We are less likely to help those to whom we are less attracted, particularly those physically disfigured (Unless disfigured ourselves);
5. We are less likely to help those responsible for their own plight.
Characteristics of a potential helper:
Little clear cut evidence of helping personality.
However Bierhoff et al (1991) suggests the following:
Factors thought likely in influencing this are:
Situation clearly requires help;
Any danger being associated with giving help;
Intrinsic or extrinsic rewards resulting from it;
Potential helper is in a good mood (Isen - 1984) or has specialist knowledge (Clark and Word (1974)
Potential helper has consumed alcohol. (Steele and Southwick - 1985)
Characteristics of the situation
· Much research carried out into the characteristics of the situation that seem to affect helping behaviour.
· People in urban areas become familiar with emergency situations and therefore its argued in comparison to rural dwellers become more immune to others needs. Levine et al (1994)
· Diffusion of responsibility therefore partially may explain this.
· The Information Overload Hypothesis (Milgram 1970)
Info overflow and familiarity with emergency situations leads to urban residents restricting their attention to personally relevant events and so the needs of strangers go unnoticed.
Explaining bystander effects:
Bystander Apathy è Individual does not become involved at all
Bystander Intervention è witness becomes actively involved.
Refer to Latane and Darley’s cognitive model for decision tree explanation. (Pg. 8)
Evaluation of Latane and Darley Model
· Considerable experimental support for the cognitive process approach to explaining whether to help or not. But response speed is so high that this suggests its not a cognitive process at all.
· Bickman (1972) “The more ambiguous the situation the less likely help will be offered.”
· Nida (1981) the more ambiguous the situation the less you can help so you don’t help.
· Murayama et al. (1982) increasing personal responsibility increases helping response.
The Arousal: Cost Reward Model
Irving Piliavin et al (1981) conducted a series of experiments to investigate what he claimed were the cost / benefit analyses that people made before deciding whether to become involved. E.g. The Subway Samaritan Study.
When we see someone in distress we become aroused. Greater the arousal the greater the desire to help. Gaertner and Dovidio (1977) found a strong positive between the speed at which participants respond to an emergency in a lab and their heart rate, the faster the heart rate the faster the response.
Labelling the arousal
Physiological arousal does not automatically produce emotions in itself, but does play a part in what specific emotion we feel.
Seeing someone in distress elicits both personal distress and empathic concern.
Cost Benefit analysis
· Costs include:
o Loss of resources
o Risk of Harm
o Negative Emotional Response.
· Benefits of helping include:
o Social approval
o Self Esteem
o Positive emotional response.
· Cost of not helping:
o Damage to self esteem
o Negative emotional response.
Commentary / Evaluation of the arousal: Cost Reward Model.
Manstead et al. (1995)
o People are aroused by the distress of others; this is suggested to be a biologically inherited capacity.
Arousal increases likelihood of helping in an emergency, though less agreement exists regards whether people can reduce personal distress because of empathic concern.
Modification to arousal: Cost-benefit model
o In serious emergencies where lives may be lost and arousal is very high people may carry out assistance regardless of cost-benefit. i.e. they act impulsively.
An alternative explanation:
o Weiner (1986) proposed an attribution explanation, in which when we see a person in distress we seek the source of this distress. If this originates from uncontrollable causes we are likely to help. If it’s a result of their own actions we are less likely to help. Here according to this perspective determining the possible costs and rewards of helping is insufficient when deciding whether or not to help.
Cultural differences in pro-social behaviour
· Individualistic Vs Communal importance in cultures e.g. UK / USA Vs China. I.E. Rewards are shared equally regardless of anyone’s individual contribution or those who contribute the most deserve the most rewards. Equity rule vs. equality rule.
Seeking and giving help
Role for liking and gender. Americans have been found to help more people that they like, however, this has no effect on Indian adults who simply feel communal responsibility for those in need regardless of any feelings for the victim.
Differences within cultures
· Perhaps women are more likely to ask for help and more likely to receive it.
· Men on the other hand are encouraged to be self sufficient and more reluctant to seek help and less likely to offer it.
· Therefore those who are perceived as being more likely to seek help may elicit more pro-social behaviours from potential helpers.
References of note:
Wispe (1972) – defined pro-social behaviour.
Hamilton (1963, 1964) – Kin Selection theory.
Stuart (1991) – spatial proximity and phenotype matching to r recognise kin animals.
Holmes and Sherman (1982) – kin selection in explaining apparent altruism in
Trivers (1971) - Reciprocal altruism as a Loan that may be repaid
Wilkinson (1984) - Reciprocal altruism by vampire bats.
Axelrod and Hamilton (1981) - Tit for tat strategy
Dawkins, R. (1976) - Tit for tat strategy
Manning and Dawkins (1998) - Vampire bats good example of reciprocal altruism.
Caraco and Wolf (1975) - Lionesses share kills as explanation of apparent
Grier and Burk (1992) - Honeyguide bird leads people in Africa to
bee hives. – e.g. of ‘mutualism’ in apparent altruism.
Holldobler (1971) – larvae of the Atemelles beetle mimics the begging
behaviour of ants in order to obtain food from passing workers.
Moksnes and RǾskaft (1995) - Cuckoo manipulating cries of host birds chicks.
Packer (1977) - Baboon coalitions in delayed reciprocal altruism
Wilkinson (1984) - Vampire Bat Feeding in delayed reciprocal altruism
Nancy Eisenburg (1989) – Children learn to be helpful by being given
opportunities like taking care of pets and teaching younger siblings etc.
Fultz et al (1986) - argues people show empathy to others to escape
social disapproval. – Commentary on empathy-altruism model
Batson and Oleson (1991) - Contradict the assumption that human nature is
fundamentally self serving. – Commentary on empathy-altruism model
Kruger (2003) - Evolution and altruism
Cialdini et al. (1997) - Oneness and altruism
Isen and Levin (1972) - 10c in phone booth experiment with negative state
relief model. Empathy.
Batson (1991) - Negative state relief model, altruism or egoism.
Latane and Darley - first social psychologists to take an academic interest in
bystander behaviour after the tragic murder of Kitty Genovese.
Irving Piliavin et al (1969) - Support for wieners theory of self responsibility.
NY subway experiments.
Latane and Darley (1970) - Bystander effects in the natural environment
(In Lift and books dropped)
Piliavin et al. (1981) - Characteristics of the person in need.
Bierhoff et al (1991) - Characteristics of a helping personality.
Levine et al. (1994) - Argued that population density per sq mile predictor of
Milgram (1970) - The Information Overload Hypothesis
Bickman (1972) - “The more ambiguous the situation the less likely help will
Nida (1981) - the more ambiguous the situation the less you can help so
you don’t help.
Murayama et al. (1982) - increasing personal responsibility increases helping
Irving Piliavin et al (1981) - The Arousal: Cost Reward Model
Gaertner and Dovidio (1977) - Found a strong positive between the speed at which
participants respond to an emergency in a lab and their heart rate, the faster the heart rate the faster the response.
Weiner (1986) - Arousal: cost reward model. Attribution explanation, in
which when we see a person in distress we seek the source
of this distress
Manstead et al. (1995) - People are aroused by the
distress of others; this is suggested to be a biologically
Concepts to note:
Kin selection Theory
Induced or manipulated altruism
Batson’s Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis
Diffusion of responsibility
The Information Overload Hypothesis - (Milgram 1970)
Negative state relief model
Bystander Behaviour – Bystander Apathy and Bystander Intervention
Latane and Darley’s cognitive model for bystander effects
The Arousal: Cost Reward Model for bystander effects- Irving Piliavin et al (1981)
Equity rule vs. equality rule - Cultural differences in pro-social behaviour.