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level of independence and self-reliance. They were likely to pursue their personal goals
even if those goals con¬‚icted with social norms. Third, rescuers had an enduring commit-
ment to helping those in need long before the war began. The war did not make these people
altruists; rather, it allowed these individuals to remain altruists in a new situation.
Fourth, rescuers had (and still have) a matter-of-fact attitude about their rescue
efforts. During and after the war, rescuers denied that they were heroes, instead saying
that they did the only thing they could do. Finally, rescuers had a universalistic view
of the needy. That is, rescuers were able to put aside the religion or other characteris-
Social Psychology

tics of those they helped. Interestingly, some rescuers harbored anti-Semitic attitudes
(Tec, 1986). But they were able to put those prejudices aside and help a person in need.
These characteristics, along with high levels of empathy, contributed to the rescuersʼ
decision to help the Jews.
The research on rescuers clearly shows that they differed in signi¬cant ways from
those who were nonrescuers (Oliner & Oliner, 1988) or paid helpers (Tec, 1986). How
can we account for these differences? To answer this question, we must look at the
family environments in which rescuers were socialized.

Altruism as a Function of Childrearing Style
In Chapter 10, we established that inept parenting contributes to the development
of antisocial behaviors such as aggression. Oliner and Oliner (1988) found that the
childrearing styles used by parents of rescuers contributed to the development of
prosocial attitudes and behaviors. The techniques used by parents of rescuers fostered
empathy in the rescuers.
Research shows that a parental or adult model who behaves altruistically is more
likely to in¬‚uence children to help than are verbal exhortations to be generous (Bryan
& Walbek, 1970). Additionally, verbal reinforcement has a different effect on childrenʼs
helping, depending on whether a model behaves in a charitable or sel¬sh manner
(Midlarsky, Bryan, & Brickman, 1973). Verbal social approval from a sel¬sh model
does not increase childrenʼs donations. However, social approval from a charitable
model does.
Models obviously have a powerful effect on both aggressive and prosocial behav-
iors. Why, however, do you think that a prosocial model has more effect on younger
children than older children? What factors can you think of to explain the fact that a
modelʼs behavior is more important than what the model says? Based on what you
know about the effect of prosocial models on childrenʼs altruism, if you were given
the opportunity to design a television character to communicate prosocial ideals, what
would that character be like? What would the character say and do to foster prosocial
behavior in children? Similarly, what types of models should we be exposing adults to
in order to increase helping? Parents of rescuers provided role models for their chil-
dren that allowed them to develop the positive qualities needed to become rescuers
later in life. For example, rescuers (more than nonrescuers) came from families that
stressed the universal similarity of all people, despite super¬cial differences among
them (Oliner & Oliner, 1988). Families stressed the aspect of religion that encour-
aged caring for those in need. Additionally, families of rescuers did not discuss nega-
tive stereotypes of Jews, which was more common among families of nonrescuers.
As children, then, rescuers were exposed to role models that instilled in them many
positive qualities.
It is not enough for parents simply to embrace altruistic values and provide posi-
tive role models (Staub, 1985); they must also exert ¬rm control over their children.
Parents who raise altruistic children coach them to be helpful and ¬rmly teach them
how to be helpful (Goleman, 1991a; Stab, 1985). Parents who are warm and nurturing
and use reasoning with the child as a discipline technique are more likely to produce
an altruistic child than cold, uncaring, punitive parents (Eisenberg & Mussen, 1989).
This was certainly true of families of rescuers. Parents of rescuers tended to avoid
using physical punishment, using an inductive style that focused on verbal reasoning
and explanation.
Chapter 11 Prosocial Behavior and Altruism 433

As important as the family is in the socialization of altruism, it cannot alone account
for a child growing up to be an altruistic individual. Recall that Albert and Hermann
Goering grew up in the same household yet went down very different paths in adult-
hood. The childʼs cognitive development, or his or her capacity to understand the world,
also plays a role.

Altruism as a Function of Cognitive Development
As children grow, their ability to think about and understand other people and the world
changes. The cognitive perspective focuses on how altruistic behavior develops as a
result of changes in the childʼs thinking skills. To study altruism from this perspective,
Nancy Eisenberg presented children with several moral dilemmas that pit one personʼs
welfare against another personʼs welfare. Here is one example: Bob, a young man who
was very good at swimming, was asked to help young crippled children who could not
walk to learn to swim so that they could strengthen their legs for walking. Bob was the
only one in his town who could do this job well, because only he had both life-saving
and teaching experiences. But helping crippled children took much of Bobʼs free time
left after work and school, and Bob wanted to practice hard as often as possible for an
upcoming series of important swimming contests. If Bob did not practice swimming in
all his free time, his chances of winning the contests and receiving a paid college educa-
tion or sum of money would be greatly lessened (Eisenberg & Mussen, 1989, p. 124).
The dilemma pits Bobʼs needs against those of other people. The children in
Eisenbergʼs study were asked several questions about what Bob should do. For example,
“Should Bob agree to teach the crippled children? Why?” Based on their responses, chil-
dren were classi¬ed according to Eisenbergʼs levels of prosocial reasoning. Eisenbergʼs
¬ndings show that as children get older, they are more likely to understand the needs
of other people and are less focused on their own sel¬sh concerns. The research sug-
gests that this is a continual process and that peopleʼs altruistic thinking and behavior
can change throughout life.
The idea that the development of altruism is a lifelong process is supported by the
fact that rescuers did not magically become caring and empathic at the outset of the
war. Instead, the ethic of caring grew out of their personalities and interpersonal styles,
which had developed over the course of their lives. Rescuers were altruistic long before
the war (Huneke, 1986; Oliner & Oliner, 1988; Tec, 1986) and tended to remain more
altruistic than nonrescuers after the war (Oliner & Oliner, 1988).

Becoming an Altruistic Person
Altruism requires something more than empathy and compassionate values
(Staub, 1985). It requires the psychological and practical competence to carry those
intentions into action (Goleman, 1991). Goodness, like evil, begins slowly, in small
steps. Recall from the Chapter 7 discussion on social in¬‚uence that we are often eased
into behaviors in small steps (i.e., through the foot-in-the-door technique). In a similar
manner, many rescuers gradually eased themselves into their roles as rescuers. People
responded to a ¬rst request for help and hid someone for a day or two. Once they took
that ¬rst step, they began to see themselves differently, as the kind of people who
rescued the desperate. Altruistic actions changed their self-concept: Because I helped,
I must be an altruistic person. As we saw in Chapter 2, one way we gain self-knowl-
edge is through observation of our own behavior. We then apply that knowledge to
our self-concept.
Social Psychology

This is how Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg got involved in rescuing Hungarian
Jews during World War II (Staub, 1985). The ¬rst person he rescued was a business
partner who happened to be a Hungarian Jew. Wallenberg then became more involved
and more daring. He began to manufacture passes for Jews, saying that they were citi-
zens of Sweden. He even handed out passes to Jews who were being put in the cattle
cars that would take them to the death camps. Wallenberg disappeared soon after, and
his fate is still unknown. Apparently, there is a unique type of person who is likely to
take that very ¬rst step to help and to continue helping until the end (Goleman, 1991).
Wallenberg and the other rescuers were such people.

Gender and Rescue
Research suggests that a small majority of the rescuers were women (Becker &
Eagly, 2004). For example, in Poland 57% of rescuers were women. In France 55.6%
were women. And in the Netherlands, 52.5% were women (Becker & Eagly, 2004).
Becker and Eagly report that women rescuers who were not part of a couple (e.g.,
husband-wife team) signi¬cantly exceeded the number of such women in the general
population. Further, the motivation underlying male and female rescue differed. Women
were more likely to be motivated by interpersonal caring and a relationship orientation
than men (Anderson, 1993).
Anderson (1993) content analyzed the questionnaire and interview data collected
by Sam and Pearl Oliner (1988). Anderson evaluated information on socialization expe-
riences, the family histories, and self-concepts of male and female rescuers. Anderson
found very different socialization experiences for male and female rescuers. She found
that men tended to be socialized toward civic life, had at least a high school education,
and were socialized to be autonomous. Women were more likely to be socialized to be
family oriented, were less likely to have had an education, and were socialized for altru-
ism. Anderson points out that these different socialization experiences related to different
forms of rescue activity for men and women. Men, re¬‚ecting their socialization toward
autonomy, were more likely to work alone, rescuing large numbers of people, one at a
time. Male rescue was also more likely to be brief and repetitive (e.g., smuggling people
out of dangerous areas). Female rescuers, on the other hand, were more likely to work
with others in helping networks and help the same people over a longer period of time.
Anderson also found that women tended to be motivated by guilt and expressed depres-
sion and doubts about their ability to help. Men were more motivated to protect the inno-
cent and were less socially connected than women.

A Synthesis: Situational and Personality Factors in Altruism
We have seen that both situational and personality factors in¬‚uence the development and
course of altruism. How do these factors work together to produce altruistic behavior?
Two approaches provide some answers: the interactionist view and the application of
the ¬ve-stage decision model to long-term helping situations.

The Interactionist View
interactionist view of The interactionist view of altruism argues that an individualʼs internal motives (whether
altruism The view that an altruistic or sel¬sh) interact with situational factors to determine if a person will help
individual™s altruistic or sel¬sh (Callero, 1986). Romer and his colleagues (Romer, Gruder, & Lizzadro, 1986) identi-
internal motives interact with
¬ed four altruistic orientations based on the individualʼs degree of nurturance (the need
situational factors to determine
to give help) and of succorance (the need to receive help):
whether a person will help.
Chapter 11 Prosocial Behavior and Altruism 435

1. Altruistic”Those who are motivated to help others but not to receive help
in return
2. Receptive giving”Those who help to obtain something in return
3. Sel¬sh”Those who are primarily motivated to receive help but not give it
4. Inner-sustaining”Those who are not motivated to give or receive help
In their study, Romer and colleagues (1986) led people to believe that they either
would or would not be compensated for their help. On the basis of the four orientations
just described, these researchers predicted that individuals with an altruistic orientation
would help even if compensation was not expected; receptive givers would be willing to
help only if they stood to gain something in return; sel¬sh people would not be oriented
toward helping, regardless of compensation; and those described as inner-sustaining
would neither give nor receive, no matter what the compensation.
Romerʼs (1986) results con¬rmed this hypothesis. Figure 11.8 shows the results
on two indexes of helping: the percentage of subjects who agree to help and the
number of hours volunteered. Notice that altruistic people were less likely to help
when compensation was offered. This is in keeping with the reverse-incentive effect
described in Chapter 6. When people are internally motivated to do something, giving Figure 11.8 Helping
behavior and hours
them an external reward decreases their motivation and their liking for the activity.
volunteered as a function
There is also evidence that personality and the situation interact in a way that can
of helping orientation and
reduce the bystander effect. In one study, researchers categorized subjects as either
compensation. Participants
“esteem oriented” or “safety oriented” (Wilson, 1976). Esteem-oriented individuals
whose orientation was
are motivated by a strong sense of personal competency rather than by what others
receptive giving were more
do. Safety-oriented individuals are more dependent on what others do. Subjects
likely to help when they
were exposed to a staged emergency (a simulated explosion that supposedly hurt the
received compensation.
experimenter), either while alone, in the presence of a passive bystander (who makes
Altruistic participants were
no effort to help), or in the presence of a helping bystander (who goes to the aid of
willing to help regardless
the experimenter).
of whether they were
From Romer, Gruder, and Lizzadro (1986).
Social Psychology

Figure 11.9
The relationship between
personality characteristics,
presence, and type of
bystander on the likelihood
of helping. Esteem-oriented
participants were most
likely to help, regardless
of bystander condition.
Safety-oriented participants
were most likely to help
if they were alone or
if there was a helping
bystander present.
Based on data from Wilson (1976).

The study showed that esteem-oriented subjects were more likely to help than
safety-oriented subjects in all cases (Figure 11.9). Of most interest, however, is the fact
that the esteem-oriented subjects were more likely to help when a passive bystander
was present than were the safety-oriented subjects. Thus, subjects who are motivated
internally (esteem oriented) are not just more likely to help than those who are exter-
nally motivated (safety oriented); they are also less likely to fall prey to the in¬‚uence
of a passive bystander. This suggests that individuals who helped in the classic experi-
ments on the bystander effect may possess personality characteristics that allow them
to overcome the help-depressing effects of bystanders.
We might also expect that the individualʼs personality will interact with the costs
of giving help. Some individuals help even though the cost of helping is high. For
example, some subjects in Batsonʼs (1990a) research described earlier in this chapter
helped by offering to change places with someone receiving electric shocks even though
they could have escaped the situation easily. And rescuers helped despite the fact that
getting caught helping Jews meant death. In contrast, there are those who will not help
even if helping requires minimal effort.
The degree to which the personality of the helper affects helping may depend on the
perceived costs involved in giving aid. In relatively low-cost situations, personality will
be less important than the situation. However, in high-cost situations, personality will be
more important than the situation. As the perceived cost of helping increases, personality
exerts a stronger effect on the decision to help. This is represented in Figure 11.10. The
base of the triangle represents very low-cost behaviors. As you move up the triangle,
the cost of helping increases. The relative size of each division of the triangle represents
the number of people who would be willing to help another in distress.
An extremely low-cost request (e.g., giving a stranger directions to the campus
library) would result in most peopleʼs helping. Peopleʼs personalities matter little when
it costs almost nothing to help. In fact, probably more effort is spent on saying no than
Chapter 11 Prosocial Behavior and Altruism 437

Figure 11.10
The relationship between
personality and likeliness
of helping in different
helping situations. Nearly
everyone would help if
cost were very low. As
the cost of the helping act


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