<<

. 87
( 115 .)



>>

So, it may be a response to a feeling of gratitude that drives the restoration of equity
after receiving help.

Threats to Self-Esteem
Perhaps the strongest explanation for the negative impact of receiving help centers on
threats to self-esteem. When people become dependent on others, especially in Western
society, their self-esteem and self-worth come into question (Fisher et al., 1982). Under
these conditions, receiving help may be a threatening experience.
threat to self-esteem There is considerable support for the threat to self-esteem model. In one study,
model A model explaining subjects who received aid on an analogy task showed greater decrements in situational
the reactions of victims to self-esteem (self-esteem tied to a speci¬c situation) than subjects not receiving help
receiving help, suggesting
(Balls & Eisenberg, 1986). In another study, researchers arti¬cially manipulated sub-
that they might refuse help
jectsʼ situational self-esteem by providing them with either positive or negative informa-
because accepting it is a
tion about themselves (Nadler, Altman, & Fisher, 1979). The researchers then created
threat to their self-esteem.
Chapter 11 Prosocial Behavior and Altruism 443

a situation in which the individual either received or did not receive aid. Subjects who
received self-enhancing information (positive self-information) showed more negative
affect when aid was offered than when no aid was offered. Subjects who received nega-
tive self-information showed positive affect when they were helped.
Thus, subjects who had positive thoughts about themselves were more negatively
affected by help than those who had negative thoughts about themselves. The offer of
help was a greater threat to those with high self-esteem than to those with low self-esteem.
In other words, not only does receiving help threaten self-esteem but also the higher a
personʼs self-esteem is, the more threatened that person is by offers of help. For example,
if you consider yourself the worldʼs best brain surgeon, asking for assistance on a case
would be more disturbing to you than if you saw yourself as an average brain surgeon.
When someone with high self-esteem fails at a task, that failure is inconsistent with
his or her positive self-image (Nadler, Fisher, & Streufert, 1976). Help offered in this
situation is perceived as threatening, especially if it comes from someone who is similar
(Fisher & Nadler, 1974; Nadler et al., 1979). Receiving help from someone similar may
be seen as a sign of relative inferiority and dependency (Nadler et al., 1979).
Conversely, when a person with high self-esteem receives help from a dissimilar
person, he or she experiences an increase in situational self-esteem and self-con¬dence.
When a person with low self-esteem receives help from a similar other, that help is
more consistent with the individualʼs self-image. For these individuals, help from a
similar other is seen as an expression of concern, and they respond positively (Nadler
et al., 1979).
A model to explain the complex relationship between self-esteem and receiving
help was developed by Nadler, Fisher, and Ben Itchak (1983). The model suggests that
help from a friend is more psychologically signi¬cant than help from a stranger. This
greater signi¬cance is translated into negative affect if failure occurs on something that
is ego involving (e.g., losing a job). Here, help from a friend is seen as a threat to oneʼs
self-esteem, and a negative reaction follows.
Receiving help can be particularly threatening when it is unsolicited and imposed
by someone (Deelstra et al., 2003). Deelstra et al. had participants work on a task that
did not present a problem, a task that involved a solvable problem, and a task that pre-
sented an unsolvable problem. In each condition, a confederate either did or did not
provide unsolicited help. The results showed that participants had the strongest nega-
tive reaction to the help imposed when they perceived that no problem existed or that
a solvable problem existed. There was also a signi¬cant change in the participantʼs
heart rate that paralleled this ¬nding. Participants showed the most heart rate increase
when help was imposed in the no-problem or solvable-problem conditions. Apparently,
receiving unwanted help is not only psychologically threatening, but it is also physi-
ologically arousing!
A study conducted in France investigated how a recipientʼs age (young, middle,
or older adult) and degree of control over a situation affected reactions to receiving
help (Raynaud-Maintier & Alaphillippe, 2001). Participants worked on an anagram
task and received varying amounts of help. The researchers found that, consistent with
the threat to self-esteem model, receiving help was threatening, especially when the
help was offered by an older adult or a helper with high self-esteem. The more control
participants had over the situation, the less threatening the help was and the older the
participant, the lower the threat of receiving help.
There are also gender differences in how people react to receiving help. In one
study, males and females were paired with ¬ctitious partners of comparable, superior,
or inferior ability and were offered help by that partner (Balls & Eisenberg, 1986).
Social Psychology
444

Females paired with a partner of similar ability showed greater reductions in situational
self-esteem than males paired with a similar partner. Thus, females perceived help as
more threatening to self-esteem than did males. Females, however, were more satis-
¬ed than males with the help they received. Females were also more likely than males
to express a need for help.
Reactions to receiving help, then, are in¬‚uenced by several factors, including the
ability to reciprocate, the similarity or dissimilarity of the helper, self-esteem, and gender.
Other factors can play a role as well. For example, if the helper has positive attributes
and is seen as having good motives, the person receiving help is more likely to feel posi-
tive about the experience. A positive outcome is also more likely if the help is offered
rather than requested, if the help is given on an ego-relevant task, and if the help does
not compromise the recipientʼs freedom (e.g., with a very high obligation to repay the
helper). Overall, we see that an individualʼs reaction to receiving help is in¬‚uenced by
an interaction between situational variables (for example, the helperʼs characteristics)
and personality variables (Fisher et al., 1982).



Irene Opdyke Revisited
Irene Opdyke offered help to people she hardly knew and put her life at great risk. Opdyke
was undoubtedly an empathic person who felt the suffering of the Jews. In deciding
to help, she almost surely went through something similar to the process described in
this chapter. She noticed the situation requiring help when she heard about the liquida-
tion of the ghetto. She labeled the situation as one that required help, and she assumed
responsibility for helping. She knew what she had to do to help: ¬nd a place to hide the
Jews. Finally, she implemented her decision to help. Irene Opdykeʼs behavior ¬ts quite
well with the ¬ve-stage decision model for helping.
Opdykeʼs decision was also similar to the decisions made by hundreds of other res-
cuers of Jews. Opdyke and the other rescuers put their lives on the line to save others.
We know something about Irene Opdyke and her commitment to helping people. After
all, she was studying to be a nurse before the war. It is obvious that Irene Opdyke had
empathy for those in need and was able to translate that empathy into tangible action.
Irene Opdyke provides us with an inspiring example of an altruistic person who put the
welfare of others above her own.



Chapter Review
1. What is altruism and how is it different from helping behavior? Why is the
difference important?
Altruism is behavior that helps a person in need that is focused on the victim
and is motivated purely by the desire to help the other person. Other, similar
behaviors may be motivated by relieving oneʼs personal distress or to gain
some reward. These behaviors are categorized as helping behavior. The
motivation underlying an act of help is important because it may affect the
quality of the help given.
Chapter 11 Prosocial Behavior and Altruism 445

2. What are empathy and egoism, and how do they relate to altruism?
Empathy refers to compassionate understanding of how a person in need
feels. Some acts of helping are focused on and motivated by our desire to
relieve the suffering of the victim rather than our own discomfort. Empathy
for a person in need is rooted in perspective taking. A person who focuses
on how a person in distress feels is more likely to experience empathy. The
empathy-altruism hypothesis proposes that arousal of empathy increases the
likelihood of altruism. This hypothesis has received research support, but
it remains controversial. In contrast, egoism refers to a motive for helping
that is focused on relieving our own discomfort rather than on relieving the
victimʼs suffering.
3. What about the idea that we may help to avoid guilt or shame?
This has been raised as a possibility in the empathy-punishment hypothesis,
which states that people help to avoid the guilt and shame associated with
not helping. Research pitting this hypothesis against the empathy-altruism
hypothesis has fallen on the side of empathy-altruism. However, the book is
still open on the validity of the empathy-altruism hypothesis.
4. What role does biology play in altruism?
There is evidence that helping has biological roots, as suggested by
sociobiologists. According to this view, helping is biologically adaptive
and helps a species survive. The focus of this explanation is on survival of
the gene pool of a species rather than on survival of any one member of a
species. According to evolutionary biologists, animals are more likely to
help members of their own family through alloparenting. For humans, a
similar effect occurs: We are more likely to help others who are like us and
who thus share genetic material.
Although this idea has some merit, it cannot account for the complexity
of animal or human altruism. We might have predicted, based on the
biological explanation, that Irene Opdyke would not have been motivated to
help the Jews in Ternopol because they were not related and were members
of different ethnic and religious groups.
5. How do social psychologists explain helping in an emergency situation?
To explain helping (or nonhelping) in emergencies, social psychologists
Darley and Latan© developed a decision model with ¬ve stages: noticing
the emergency, labeling the emergency correctly, assuming responsibility to
help, knowing what to do, and implementing the decision to help. At each
stage, many variables in¬‚uence an individualʼs decision to help.
At the noticing stage, anything that makes the emergency stand out
increases the likelihood of help being offered. However, interpreting a
situation as an emergency can be ambiguous, and we may mislabel it, in
which case we do not give help.
Social Psychology
446

Next, we must assume personal responsibility for helping. This is known
as the bystander effect. Three reasons for this failure to help when bystanders
are present are diffusion of responsibility (assuming that someone else will
help), pluralistic ignorance (responding to the inaction of others), and assuming
a social category relationship (assuming that parties in a situation belong
together). Although the bystander effect is a powerful, reliable phenomenon,
there are exceptions to it. Research shows that when help requires potentially
dangerous intervention, people are more likely to help when in groups than
when alone. The bystander effect is less likely to occur when the helping
situation confronting us involves a clear violation of a social norm that we
personally care about.
Even if we assume responsibility, we may not help because we do not
know what to do or lack skills, or we may think that someone else is more
quali¬ed to help. Finally, we may fail to help because the costs of helping are
seen as too high. Costs are increased when we might be injured or otherwise
inconvenienced by stopping to help.
6. What factors affect the decision to help?
Mood makes a difference. Bystanders who are in a positive (good) mood are
more likely to help others. However, people may not help if they think helping
will spoil their good mood. Characteristics of the victim also play a role.
Females are more likely to be helped if the helper is male. Physically attractive
people are more likely to be helped than unattractive people. We also take into
account whether we feel that the victim deserves help. If we believe the victim
contributed to his or her own problems, we are less likely to help than if we
believe the victim did not contribute. This ¬ts with the just-world hypothesis,
the idea that people get what they deserve and deserve what they get. We may
relax this standard if we believe the victim strongly needs our help.
7. If you need help, how can you increase your chances of receiving help?
You need to help people come to the right decision at each stage of the decision
model. To ensure that you get noticed, make any plea for help as loud and as
clear as possible. This will also help bystanders correctly label your situation
as an emergency. To get someone to assume responsibility, make eye contact
with a bystander. Better yet, make a direct request of a particular bystander for
help. Research shows that making such a request increases a bystanderʼs sense
of responsibility for helping you and increases the likelihood of helping.
8. Other than traditional helping in emergency situations, what other forms of
helping are there?
Although social psychologists have historically focused on helping in relatively
benign emergency situations, there are other forms of help that involve risk.
Courageous resistance is one such form of helping. Courageous resistance is
a form of helping that involves signi¬cant risk to the helper (or the helperʼs
family), requires a long-term commitment, and occurs after a deliberative
process. Courageous resistors include whistleblowers, political activists, and
rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust. Heroism is another form of helping that
is closely related to courageous resistance. In both cases there is substantial
risk to the helper. However, heroism need not involve a long-term commitment
and may not require a deliberative process to decide to help.
Chapter 11 Prosocial Behavior and Altruism 447

9. How do personality characteristics relate to helping?
Although situational factors play an important role in helping, especially
spontaneous helping, they may not give us a true picture of the helper
and how he or she might behave across helping situations. Personality
characteristics may become more relevant when nonspontaneous, long-term
helping is considered. In this case, more planning and thought are required.
Some individuals might possess an altruistic personality, or a cluster of traits,
including empathy, that predisposes a person to helping.
Research on rescuers of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe”who have been
designated righteous rescuers by Israel”provides evidence for the existence
of an altruistic personality. Rescuers from Eastern Europe (especially Poland)
displayed autonomous altruism, altruism that is not supported by social norms.
Rescuers from Western Europe were more likely to display normative altruism,
altruism that society supports and recognizes.
10. What situational and personality variables played a role in the decision to help
Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe?
Although situational factors did not exert as strong an in¬‚uence on the
decision to help as one might expect, two have been found to be signi¬cant:
the presence of family or group support and the initiation of rescue efforts as
a result of a speci¬c request for help. After rescuers began helping, they were
likely to continue helping.
There were also personality variables that related to the decision to
become a rescuer. Compared to nonrescuers, rescuers were higher in emotional
empathy (sensitivity to the suffering of others) and had a strong sense of social
responsibility. Other characteristics of rescuers included an inability to blend
with others, a high level of independence and self-reliance, a commitment
to helping before the war, a matter-of-fact attitude about their helping, and a
universalistic view of the needy.
11. What factors contribute to a personʼs developing an altruistic personality?
Oliner and Oliner found that families of rescuers of Jews in Nazi-occupied
Europe and families of nonrescuers differed in their styles. Families of
rescuers provided role models for helping and stressed the universal nature
of all people. They emphasized aspects of religion that focus on caring for
others, and they were less likely to discuss negative stereotypes of Jews.
Parents of altruistic individuals tended to be warm and nurturing in their
parenting style. Parents of rescuers used less physical punishment than parents
of nonrescuers, relying instead on induction.
Cognitive development also contributes to the development of an
altruistic personality. As children get older, they are more likely to understand
the needs of others. This development is a lifelong process.
Rescuers did not magically become altruists when World War II broke
out. Instead, they tended to be helpers long before the war. Becoming a rescuer
involved a series of small steps. In many cases, rescuers started with a small
act and then moved to larger ones.
Social Psychology
448

12. What is the interactionist view of altruism?
According to the interactionist view of altruism, personality and situational
factors interact to in¬‚uence helping. Research has identi¬ed four altruistic
orientations: altruistic (those who are motivated to help others but not to
receive help in return), receptive giving (those who help to obtain something in
return), sel¬sh (those who are primarily motivated to receive help but not give
it), and inner sustaining (those who are not motivated to give or receive help).
Research shows that individuals with an altruistic orientation are less
likely to help if compensation is offered. There is also evidence that personality

<<

. 87
( 115 .)



>>