Bystander Behaviour

Human altruism is the idea of people performing completely selfless acts, for example helping others because they feel only empathy for them and want to assist them. However it is often argued that truly altruistic behaviour doesn’t exist and there is always some egoistic motivation to help someone because you will be benefit from it in some way. Batson’s Empathy Altruism Model explains altruistic behaviour as simply a consequence of empathy with someone in need.

It’s suggested that when coming across someone who needs your help it will lead to empathetic concern, but only if the perspective of the other person is taken so that it is understood how they feel. Batson believed that three conditions facilitate perspective taking; the first would be that the observer is attached to the victim in some way, either romantically, through family or that they are similar in a way. The second is that the observer has had a similar experience so can understand the distress the person is going through, and the final condition would be that the observer is instructed to imagine what it must be like in the person’s situation by other people around them.

To test this theory, Batson used a placebo drug that had no real effects but led all female participants to interpret their reactions as high or low empathy. Participants then watched a confederate named ‘Elaine’ receive electric shocks, and were given the chance to take her place, this would indicate empathetic concern, or to leave which would indicate personal distress. It was found that those in the high empathy condition chose to stay more than those in the low empathy condition.

Later a modified version of this study was repeated to eliminate the idea of people taking ‘Elaine’s place purely to be socially accepted and not look bad amongst others. Batson gave participants the opportunity to take her place, however they must pass a mathematics test first. The hypothesis was that if they were motivated by purely social reasons, then participants would purposefully fail the maths test, therefore taking the easy way out. Many students who felt personal distress did exactly that and failed, however those claiming empathy took the test and passed, suggesting that true altruism was taking place.

These studies show a difference side to human nature; that we can be selfless and altruistic, and the support studies eliminate the idea that people always help to avoid disapproval. However, all studies are contrived and can’t be applied to real life situations. As well as this, participants could be performing demand characteristics as the “placebo drug” story is quite unbelievable and therefore could act how they think they’re supposed to.

The wider scale of altruism isn’t reflected, only the short terms acts, for example continuous caring for someone can be an altruistic act and it’s not shown whether the same process is involved. Batson acknowledged afterwards that empathy can be easily crushed – of those feeling empathetic concern, 86% agreed to take “mild” shocks, whereas when these were described as painful it went down to a mere 14%.

It is believed by Cialdini that when we do something wrong we feel guilty about it, and this is a negative feeling so we try to reduce it. His Negative State Relief Hypothesis says that people learn that helping people is a desirable behaviour and is a rewarding quality to have. This means that motivation to help others is egoistic as we want to reduce our bad feelings, so the primary objective in any behaviour that appears to be altruistic is actually the enhancement of our own mood. Therefore acting pro-socially is one way to reduce negative state.

Research has found that following transgression that produced guilt, participants were more likely to engage in pro-social acts to improve their moods. However when the transgressors mood was first improved by being given money, their motivation to relieve negative state was lessened. Manucia also tested the Negative State Relief hypothesis by asking participants to recall a neutral or distressing memory, and then given a placebo drug and were told their mood wouldn’t change or an hour or so to eliminate behaviour that was only done to improve their moods. This mood freezing manipulation eliminated any increase in helping, therefore people only helped when they believed that giving help could improve their emotional state.

Once again, this research only reflects short term altruistic acts so can’t be generalised. Cialidini suggested that when you feel empathy, you also feel sadness, and when manipulated separately it was found that higher levels of sadness produced more helping. Franzoi reported that adults are more likely to help in a bad mood, but in contrast to this there is plenty of evidence to suggest that people are more likely to help when they’re in a good mood. Similar to Baton’s research, their methods have been criticised with the use of the so called ‘placebo drug’, as it is hard to know whether participants believed the effects or acted how they thought they should.

Overall, Batson suggested that to resolve the issue it should be concluded that people act through empathy for people that they have a strong connection with, however for others the empathy shown is only because of their feeling of personal distress. In cannot be known whether each individual is acting because of a certain feeling as each situation will be different and differences such as situation, relationship, personal emotion and reward or costs that could take place.

Altruism can be defined as helping behaviour that is not seeking to benefit oneself either tangibly or intangibly. Batson (1981) put forward the idea that people are capable of altruistic acts which benefit another person. He suggested the empathy-altruism hypothesis, …

Altruism is a voluntary helping behaviour which is not motivated by rewards or the anticipation of a reward. One explanation of human altruism is Batson’s empathy-altruism hypothesis. This theory states that altruistic behaviour is the result of empathy, a consistent …

Within pro and anti-social behaviour, there is the idea of bystander behaviour. This refers to how people react in different situations. In times of need some people freeze, some act, some scream with fear, and these are all examples of …

Batson used his Empathy – Altruism Model (EAM) to suggest that people do act altruistically. When someone witnesses a distressing event, they experience 2 kinds of upset:  Personal distress: a general unpleasant feeling that the person would want to reduce …

David from Healtheappointments:

Hi there, would you like to get such a paper? How about receiving a customized one? Check it out