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Factors That Influence or Affect Helping

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By scheek555
Words 583
Pages 3
Everyday thousands of Americans simply don't have enough food to feed their family and their children. Most turn to government assistance, such as WIC and food stamps for support. However, not all needy families qualify and some may not receive enough food stamps. In that case, they turn to local food pantries for help with food. The donations they receive can truly make a difference.

Out of the realm of typical behavior, I recently donated two turkeys to Our Daily Bread Food Pantry to be distributed to their client families for their own Thanksgiving celebrations. The volunteers were overwhelmed with the support received during this time when the economy is weak. They were tremendously grateful for the local generosity and asked that I "please keep giving."

I'm a firm believer in doing helpful deeds. I'm a naturally kind and compassionate person, and I believe that every negative experience in one’s life can result in something positive. I would not consider my behavior to be prosocial for the reason that I had no motive for donating both turkeys to the local food pantry designed to help others. My behavior was altruistic. Why? My act was voluntarily to help needy families with no expectation of a reward in any form, except perhaps a feeling of having done a good deed. Prosocial behavior ranges over a continuum from the most selfless acts of altruism to helpful acts that are motivated entirely by self-interest (Taylor, Peplau, Sears, 2006).

The fact that I was directly gaining a tax deduction for my charitable donation did not affect my feelings about the behavior. My empathic concern motivated me to help the families in need. Because the goal of empathic concern is to enhance the welfare of someone else, it provides an altruistic motive for helping (Taylor, Peplau, Sears, 2006).

Bystander intervention is the technical term for helping a stranger in distress. Research shows that situational factors affect this type of helping. People are less likely to intervene when others are present. There are several explanations for this bystander effect, including a diffusion of responsibility, the influence of other people on how an individual interprets the situation, and evaluation of apprehension (Taylor, Peplau, Sears, 2006).

Many factors influence people's willingness to help, including the ambiguity of the situation. In ambiguous situations, it is unclear that there is an emergency. Also, people are less likely to help in unfamiliar environments than in familiar ones (e.g., when they are in strange cities rather than in their hometowns). People are much more likely to help others they judge to be innocent victims than those they believe have brought their prob¬lems on themselves. Thus, they may fail to lend assistance to homeless people and drug addicts whom they feel "deserve what they get." Perceived cost, similarity, mood, gender, and the social norm of "doing your part" in helping a worthy cause are also factors that can influence or affect helping (Taylor, Peplau, Sears, 2006).

In summary, acts of kindness and generosity come in many different forms, such as giving food to a hungry stranger, donating one’s time to aid homeless people or helping a fellow tenant make the rent. Taking care of our neighbors is an American value, and feeding our neighbors is a shared responsibility.


Social perception. (2013, September 22). Retrieved from Wikipedia:

Taylor, S. E., Peplau, L. A, Sears, D. O. (2006). Social Psychology, 12th Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Publishing.

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