Altruism Chapter 9 Reading on Reserve Questions to be Addressed



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Altruism

Questions to be Addressed

  • What is Altruism?
  • What motivates people to help others?
  • Are differences in the tendency to help others learned?
  • What kind of prosocial moral reasoning is involved in altruism?

Discussion Question:

  • Discussion Question:

What is Altruism?

  • Rooted in the Latin word alter – meaning other
  • Altruism – means “living for others”
  • Key component – selflessness – an unselfish regard for the welfare of others
  • Altruism was ignored as an area of study in social psychology until the mid-20th century even though Auguste Comte coined the term 100 years prior

Discussion Question:

  • Discussion Question:

Discussion Question:

  • Discussion Question:

Altruism vs. Prosocial Behavior

  • Need to consider the role of selflessness and an individual’s motivation for helping
  • Altruism – p. 245 – “refers to acts that are carried out voluntarily by individuals who have no concern for themselves and who have no expectation of any kind of reward.”
  • Prosocial behavior – p. 245 – “is a broader category of helping behavior that does not stress personal motives, whereas altruism must involve some kind of clear self-sacrifice.”

Discussion Question:

  • Discussion Question:

Discussion Question:

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Motivation to Help: Social Exchange Theory

  • The decision to help others involves a cost-benefit analysis
  • We enter into relationships because we derives some personal benefit from doing so which suggests that no act is truly altruistic
  • From this perspective, helping is done out of self-interest (egoistic motivations).
  • What do you think of this perspective?

Motivation to Help: Batson’s Model – Empathy-Altruism

  • Batson argues that true altruism does exist and that empathy is what sets it apart as altruism
  • He argues that a person’s motivation for helping may involve urges that are either egoistic or altruistic.
    • Egoistic – people help others hoping to reduce their own personal distress (feelings of guilt, worry, shame, fear, etc.)
    • Altruistic – people help others because they feel empathy toward them and their situation (feelings like compassion, warmth, softheartedness, etc.)
  • What do you think of these ideas?

Motivation to Help: Evolutionary Theories

  • Perhaps helping behavior is a matter of natural selection.
  • Darwin suggested that “altruistic animals risk the survival of their genes by engaging in self-sacrificing behaviors that threaten their long-term reproductive potential.”
  • There are three ways that altruistic genes might be passed on:
    • Kin Selection
    • Reciprocity
    • Group Selection

Motivation to Help: Evolutionary Theories

  • Kin Selection
    • Proposes that we are more likely to act altruistically when it comes to saving our relatives
  • Reciprocal Altruism
    • Suggests that helping in the short run increases the probability that our genes will be protected in the future.
    • What goes around, comes around
    • Helps explain non-kin helping behavior

Motivation to Help: Evolutionary Theories

  • Group Selection
    • This perspective argues that groups consisting of cooperative members are more likely to survive and pass on their genes than groups composed of selfish members

Process of Helping

Process of Helping: Assuming Personal Responsibility

  • We often times ask ourselves a number of questions in this stage:
    • Does the victim “deserve” help?
    • Do we have the expertise or competence necessary to help?
    • Do other bystanders share responsibility for helping?
      • Diffusion of responsibility – refers to the tendency for bystanders to diffuse the responsibility for helping among themselves

Process of Helping: Situational Factors

  • Time
    • Do we have the time to help?
  • Presence of others
  • Size of place
    • Larger the city size, the less likely people are to help a stranger
  • Moods and Emotions
    • Good moods = more helpful behavior
    • Bad moods = sometimes more helpful behavior, sometimes less helpful behavior (in children)
    • Guilt = more helpful behavior

Discussion Question:

  • What does the research on situational factors influencing helping behavior teach you about how you have been approaching your service-learning experience thus far? (pp. 254-261)
    • Time
    • Presence of others
    • Size of place
    • Moods and emotions

Discussion Question:

  • Can you manipulate any of these factors to produce more helping behavior from the MOJH students than what they are already contributing?
  • If so, how?
  • Why?

Motivation to Help: Social Norms

  • Social norms – socially constructed expectations for how we ought to act
  • Two classes of social norms around helping behavior:
    • Norms that invoke rules of fairness
      • Norm of reciprocity – “tit for tat”
      • The principle of equity – what’s fair?
      • Beliefs about justice – you reap what you sow
    • Norms that address questions of social responsibility
      • we should help people who are dependent upon us

Discussion Question

  • Have any of these rules regarding social norms influenced your helping behavior in your service-learning project this semester?
  • Why or why not?
  • How?

Unwelcome Help

  • What explains why people would not want help?
  • Threat-to-self-esteem model – proposes that a person’s reaction to assistance depends on how help is offered.
    • “providing help in a way that allows for some kind of fair exchange also produces a positive effect that contains elements of self-support.”

Learning to Help

  • The culture into which one is born will shape our prosocial and altruistic tendencies.
  • We learn norms from our group through the process of socialization.
  • How do we learn helping behavior?

Theories Explaining How We Learning Helping Behavior

  • Rewarding Altruism and Prosocial Behavior
    • Results of one study showed “subjects who received a polite thank-you for giving directions were more likely than subjects who were treated rudely to later offer help to a confederate.”
  • Modeling Altruism and Prosocial Behavior
    • Adults and children learn prosocial behavior through modeling
      • Adults are more likely to help if they see someone model prosocial behavior

Development of Prosocial Behavior

  • The tendency to help others increases as children mature. Children are able to do more of the following as they mature:
    • Understand and accept social norms
    • Take the perspective of others
    • Empathize
    • Feel greater social responsibility and competence
    • Greater moral reasoning – the reasons they give for helping

Theories Explaining the Moral Development in Children

  • Cialdini’s Socialization Model of Charitable Behavior
    • First step: children view altruistic behavior either in a neutral manner or even as punishing because they associate it with a loss of rewards
    • Second step: children become aware of social norms that prescribe prosocial or altruistic behavior. Motivations for helping at this point are linked to external rewards.
    • Third step: charitable behavior is intrinsically rewarding.

Theories Explaining the Moral Development in Children

  • Bar-Tal and Raviv’s Cognitive-Learning Model
    • Phase 1: Compliance – concrete
    • Phase 2: Compliance
    • Phase 3: Internal initiative – concrete
    • Phase 4: Normative behavior
    • Phase 5: Generalized reciprocity
    • Phase 6: Altruistic behavior
    • P. 271, Table 9.6

Theories Explaining the Moral Development in Children

  • Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development
    • Pp. 272-273, Table 9.7
    • Proposed that children pass through a series of stages of moral reasoning as they mature
    • Suggests an individual’s level of moral development is not determined by whether s/he decides an action is right or wrong but rather by the specific reasoning s/he uses.
    • Reasoning abilities become more sophisticated as the child matures

Theories Explaining the Moral Development in Children

  • Eisenberg’s Model of Prosocial Reasoning
    • “At the lowest level of development, children’s decisions to help are based on hedonistic concerns – how helping will satisfy their own needs or wants.”
    • “As they mature, children begin to consider other people’s needs.”
    • P. 275, Table 9.8

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