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increases, fewer and fewer
individuals are expected
to help. Only the most
altruistic individuals are
expected to help in very
high cost situations.

on directing the passerby to the library. When the cost of helping becomes high, even
prohibitive, as in the case of rescuing Jews from the Nazis, fewer people help. However,
there are those who successfully overcome the situational forces working against helping,
perhaps due to their altruistic personalities, and offer help.

Applying the Five-Stage Decision Model
to Long-Term Helping
Earlier in this chapter we described a ¬ve-stage decision model of helping. That model
has been applied exclusively to the description and explanation of helping in sponta-
neous emergencies. Now that we have explored some other aspects of helping, we can
consider whether that model may be applied to long-term and situation-speci¬c spon-
taneous helping. Letʼs consider how each stage applies to the actions of those who
rescued Jews from the Nazis.

Noticing the Situation
For many rescuers, seeing the Nazis taking Jews away provoked awareness. One
rescuer, Irene Opdyke, ¬rst became aware of the plight of the Jews when she hap-
pened to look through a hotel window and saw Jews being rounded up and taken
away (Opdyke & Elliot, 1992). Oliner and Oliner (1988) reported that rescuers were
Social Psychology

motivated to action when they witnessed some external event such as the one Opdyke
witnessed. Of course, however, many nonrescuers also saw the same events yet did
not help.

Labeling the Situation as an Emergency
A critical factor in the decision to rescue Jews was to label the situation as one serious
enough to require intervention. Here, the differences between rescuers and nonrescu-
ers became important. Apparently, rescuers were more likely to see the persecution of
the Jews as something serious that required intervention. The persecutions appeared to
insult the sensibilities of the rescuers. Nonrescuers often decided that Jews must truly
have done something to deserve their awful fate. They tended to blame the victim and
by so doing relieved themselves of any responsibility for helping.
Rescuers also had social support to help because they belonged to groups that valued
such action. This is consistent with the notion that encouragement from others may make
it easier to label a situation as one requiring intervention (Dozier & Miceli, 1985).

Assuming Responsibility to Help
The next step in the process is for the rescuer to assume responsibility to help. For rescuers,
the universalistic view of the needy, ethics of justice and caring, and generally high levels
of empathy made assuming responsibility probable. In fact, many rescuers suggested that
after they noticed the persecution of Jews, they had to do something. Their upbringing
and view of the world made assumption of responsibility almost a given rather than a
decision. The main difference between the rescuers and the nonrescuers who witnessed
the same events was that the rescuers interpreted the events as a call to action (Oliner &
Oliner, 1988). For the rescuers, the witnessed event connected with their principles of
caring (Oliner & Oliner, 1988) and led them to assume responsibility.
Another factor may have come into play when the rescuers (or a bystander to an
emergency situation) assumed responsibility. Witnessing maltreatment of the Jews may
have activated the norm of social responsibility in these individuals. This norm involves
the notion that we should help others without regard to receiving help or a reward in
exchange (Berkowitz, 1972; Schwartz, 1975).

Deciding How to Help
Rescuers helped in a variety of ways (Oliner & Oliner, 1988). They had to assess the
alternatives available and decide which was most appropriate. Alternatives included
donating money to help Jews, providing false papers, and hiding Jews. It appears that,
at least sometimes, perceived costs were not an issue. For example, Opdyke hid several
Jews in the basement of a German majorʼs house in which she was the housekeeper,
even after she witnessed a Polish family and the family of Jews they were hiding hanged
by the Nazis in the town marketplace.

Implementing the Decision to Help
The ¬nal stage, implementing the decision to help, includes assessing rewards and
costs for helping and potential outcomes of helping versus not helping. When Everett
Sanderson rescued someone who had fallen onto the subway tracks, he said he could
not have lived with himself if he had not helped. This is an assessment of outcomes.
For Sanderson, the cost for not helping outweighed the cost for helping, despite
the risks.
Chapter 11 Prosocial Behavior and Altruism 439

It is quite probable that the altruistic personalities we have been studying made similar
assessments. Because of their upbringing and the events of their lives that de¬ned them
as altruistic people, they decided that helping was less costly to them than not helping.
Most of them engaged in long-term helping. This suggests that they assessed the outcome
of their initial decision to help and decided that it was correct. This was certainly true of
Balwina Piecuch. It was also true of the Polish woman in the following example, which
illustrates the interactionist nature of helping”the interplay of situational and personal-
ity factors and the combination of spontaneous and long-term events:
A woman and her child were being led through Cracow, Poland, with other Jews to a
concentration station. The woman ran up to a bystander and pleaded, “Please, please save
my child.” A Polish woman took the young boy to her apartment, where neighbors became
suspicious of this sudden appearance of a child and called the police. The captain of the
police department asked the woman if she knew the penalty for harboring a Jewish child.
The young woman said, with some heat, “You call yourself a Pole, a gentleman, a man of
the human race?” She continued her persuasive act, claiming that one of the police in the
room had actually fathered the child “and stooped so low as to be willing to have the child
killed” (Goldman, 1988, p. 8). Both the woman and the young boy survived the war.

Altruistic Behavior from the Perspective
of the Recipient
Our discussion of altruism to this point has centered on the helper. But helping situations,
of course, involve another person: the recipient. Social psychologists have asked two
broad questions that relate to the recipient of helping behavior: What in¬‚uences an indi-
vidualʼs decision to seek help? What reactions do individuals have to receiving help?

Seeking Help from Others
The earlier discussion of helping in emergencies may have suggested that helping behav-
ior occurs when someone happens to stumble across a situation in which help is needed.
Although this does happen, there are also many situations in which an individual actively
seeks out help from another. Many Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe approached poten-
tial helpers and asked for help. And today, we see many examples of people seeking
help: refugees seeking entrance to other countries, the homeless seeking shelter, the
uninsured seeking health care.
Seeking help has both positive and negative aspects. On the positive side, the help
a person needs will often be forthcoming. For example, medical care may be given for a
life-threatening condition. On the negative side, a person may feel threatened or suffer loss
of self-esteem by asking for help (Fisher, Nadler, & Whitcher-Algana, 1982). In Western
society, a great premium is placed on being self-suf¬cient and taking care of oneself.
There is a social stigma attached to seeking help, along with potential feelings of failure.
Generally, seeking help generates costs, as does helping (DePaulo & Fisher, 1980).

A Decision Model for Seeking Help
Researchers have suggested that a person deciding whether to seek help may go through
a series of decisions, much like the helper does in Darley and Latan©ʼs ¬ve-stage deci-
sion model. According to Gross and McMullen (1982, p. 308), a person asks three
questions before seeking help:
Social Psychology

1. Do I have a problem that help will alleviate?
2. Should I seek help?
3. Who is most capable of providing the kind of help I need?
Gross and McMullen (1982) developed a model to describe the process of help
seeking. The model works in the following way: Imagine that you have begun to have
trouble falling asleep at night. Before you will seek help, you must ¬rst become aware
that there is a problem. If you had trouble falling asleep only a few times, you probably
will not identify it as a problem, and you will not seek help. But if you have trouble
falling asleep for a few weeks, you may identify it as a problem and move to the next
stage of help seeking.
Now you must decide if the situation is one that requires help. If you decide that
it is not (the problem will go away by itself), you will not seek help. If you decide that
it is, you move on to the next stage, deciding on the best way to alleviate the problem.
Here you can opt for self-help (go to the drugstore and buy some over-the-counter drug)
or help from an outside party (a physician or psychologist). If you choose self-help and
it is successful, the problem is solved and no further help is sought. If the self-help is
unsuccessful, you could then seek help from others or resign yourself to the problem
and seek no further help.
The likelihood that you may ask for and receive help may also depend on the
nature of the groups (and society) to which you belong. Members of groups often
behave altruistically toward one another (Clark, Mills, & Powell, 1986) and are often
governed by communal relationships. Members bene¬t one another in response to
each otherʼs needs (Williamson & Clark, 1989). These relationships are in contrast to
exchange relationships, in which people bene¬t one another in response to, or with the
expectation of, receiving a bene¬t in return. Communal relationships are character-
ized by helping even when people cannot reciprocate each otherʼs help (Clark, Mills,
& Powell, 1986).

Factors In¬‚uencing the Decision to Seek Help
Clearly, the decision to seek help is just as complex as the decision to give help. What
factors come into play when a person is deciding whether to seek help?
For one, individuals may be more likely to ask for help when their need is low than
when it is high (Krishan, 1988). This could be related to the perceived “power” rela-
tionship between the helper and the recipient. When need is low, people may perceive
themselves to be on more common footing with the helper. Additionally, when need is
low, there is less cost to the helper. People may be less likely to seek help if the cost to
the helper is high (DePaulo & Fisher, 1980).
Another variable in this decision-making process is the person from whom the help
is sought. Are people more willing to seek help from a friend or from a stranger? In one
study, the relationship between the helper and the recipient (friends or strangers) and the
cost to the helper (high or low) were manipulated (Shapiro, 1980). Generally, subjects
were more likely to seek help from a friend than from a stranger (Figure 11.11). When
help was sought from a friend, the potential cost to the helper was not important. When
the helper was a stranger, subjects were reluctant to ask when the cost was high.
There are several possible reasons for this. First, people may feel more comfortable
and less threatened asking a friend rather than a stranger for costly help. Second, the
norm of reciprocity (see Chapter 7) may come into play in a more meaningful way with
friends (Gouldner, 1960). People may reason that they would do it for their friends if they
Chapter 11 Prosocial Behavior and Altruism 441

Figure 11.11 Help
seeking as a function of
the cost of help and the
nature of the potential
helper. Participants were
likely to seek help from a
friend in both low-cost and
high-cost helping situations.
However, help was more
likely to be sought from a
stranger if the cost of help
were low.
Based on data from Shapiro (1980).

needed it. Thus, the expectation of reciprocity may make it easier to ask for high-cost
help from a friend. Third, people may perceive that they will have more opportunities
to reciprocate a friendʼs help. They may never see a stranger again.
A ¬nal variable that comes into play in deciding to seek help is the type of task
on which the help is needed. If someone is doing something easy (but needs help), the
person is less likely to seek help than if the task is hard (DePaulo & Fisher, 1980). And
if the task is something in which the person has ego involvement, he or she is also less
likely to seek help. So, for example, accountants would be unlikely to seek help prepar-
ing their own taxes, even if they needed the help.

Reacting to Help When It Is Given
When we help someone, or we see someone receiving help, it is natural to expect that the
person receiving the help will show gratitude. However, there are times when received
help is not appreciated or when victims complain about the help that was received. After
Hurricane Katrina, for example, many displaced New Orleans residents complained
about the living accommodations and other support provided weeks after the hurricane
struck. Why do people who receive help not always react positively toward that help?
We shall explore this topic in this section.
Receiving help is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, people are grateful for
receiving help. On the other hand, they may experience negative feelings when they
are helped, feelings of guilt, lowered self-esteem, and indebtedness. Jews who were
hidden by rescuers, for example, probably were concerned about the safety of their
benefactors; they also may have been disturbed by the thought that they could never
reciprocate the help they received.
Generally, there are four potentially negative outcomes of receiving help. First, an
inequitable relationship may be created. Second, those who are helped may experience
psychological reactance; that is, they may feel their freedom is threatened by receiving
Social Psychology

help. Third, those who receive help may make negative attributions about the intent of
those who have helped them. Fourth, those who receive help may suffer a loss of self-
esteem (Fisher et al., 1982). Letʼs look at two of these outcomes: inequity and threats
to self-esteem.

The Creation of an Inequitable Relationship
Recall from Chapter 9 that we strive to maintain equity in our relationships with others.
When inequity occurs, we feel distress and are motivated to restore equity. Helping
someone creates inequity in a relationship (Fisher et al., 1982), because the recipient feels
indebted to the helper (Leventhal, Allen, & Kemelgor, 1969). The higher the cost to the
helper, the greater the inequity and the greater the negative feelings (Gergen, 1974).
Inequity can be reversed when the help is reciprocated. Generally, a recipient
reacts more negatively to that help and likes the helper less if he or she does not have
the ability to reciprocate (Castro, 1974). Recipients are also less likely to seek help
in the future when they have not been able to reciprocate, especially if the cost to the
helper was high.
The relationship between degree of indebtedness and need to reciprocate is a
complex one. For example, if someone helps you voluntarily, you will reciprocate more
than if someone is obliged to help you as part of a job (Goranson & Berkowitz, 1966).
You also are likely to reciprocate when the cost to the donor is high (Pruitt, 1968).
Interestingly, the absolute amount of help given is less important than the cost incurred
by the helper (Aikwa, 1990; Pruitt, 1968). For example, if a person who makes $100,000
per year gave you $1,000 (1% of the income), you would feel less indebted to that
person than if you received the same $1,000 from someone who makes $10,000 per
year (10% of the income).
Finally, we need to distinguish between the obligation and sense of gratitude a
person receiving help might experience and how that relates to reciprocity. Obligation
is a feeling of “owing” someone something. So, if I help you with a dif¬cult task, you
might feel that you owe it to me to reciprocate the favor to restore equity. Gratitude
is an expression of appreciation. So, if I help you with that dif¬cult task, you may
express your appreciation by reciprocating the favor. In an interesting study by Goei
and Boster (2005), obligation and gratitude were found to be conceptually different and
affected reciprocity differently. Goei and Boster found that doing a favor for someone,
especially a high-cost favor, increased gratitude but not obligation. In response to
increased gratitude, participants were then willing to comply with a request for help.


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