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Issue Analysis: Pro-Social Behavior

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Issue Analysis: Pro-Social Behavior
Psych. 555
April 29, 2013
Dr. Anthony

Issue Analysis: Pro-social Behavior Human kindness has been studied for centuries and spawned debates over the reasons behind exhibiting kindness and the lack of it. Pro-social behaviors are those behaviors that involve helping another person; ulterior motives may or may not play a part. Altruism is a pro-social behavior in which helping behavior occurs with no indication of personal benefit. According to Fiske (2010), “altruism describes a motive that makes people help because of genuine concern for others, to increase the welfare of others,” (p. 347). A person acts altruistically when he or she feels empathy for another person and assumes responsibility for helping. Another concept of helping is Egotistic helping, that is the idea that the primary motivator is to decrease one’s own distress and places the decreasing another’s distress as the secondary motivator (Nier, 2009). The existence of true altruism has been a topic of longstanding debate in social psychology. Nier (2009) has provided information concerning both sides of this debate (Nier, 2009). Batson (et. Al, 1981) supports the concept of true altruism stating that individuals help others simply out of a desire to do so. This help earns the individual no reward. The opposing side is presented by Cialdini (et. Al, 1987) concludes that when individuals offer aid to others, they are doing so for a personal gain of some kind. The articles discussed by Nier, (2009) share opinions from experts on both sides of this issue and provide a foundation upon which to base one’s own decision with regard to true altruism.
Brief Summary of Both Arguments
The article Is Empathic Emotion a Source of Altruistic Motivation? Presented by Batson (et. al, 1981) focuses on whether it is possible to have true altruistic motives or whether everyone is motivated by egoistic goals. The difference in the two being that altruistic motives are done with the end result being to ease someone else’s suffering or discomfort while egoistic motives have the end goal of reducing one’s own suffering or discomfort (Batson, 1981). Through experiments they have shown that there is a correlation between others altruistic motivations and similarity of the person who is suffering. When one is faced with the suffering of someone they perceive as being similar to themselves, they are more likely to help. There was also a documented correlation between an egoistic person’s willingness to help and the ease of removing themselves from the situation, or personal cost. If a person is able to remove themselves from witnessing the suffering, than they are less likely to help, while when faced with continue exposure to the suffering, they are more likely to provide assistance. These findings help show that there can be purely altruistic motives for helping but they are not conclusive in this result. The article Empathy-Based Helping: Is It Selflessly or Selfishly Motivated? Presented by Cialdini (et al, 1987), looks at the study by Batson et al and attempts to show that a person’s likelihood to help one who is suffering is not based on altruistic motives but rather on an egotistic level dependent on the alleviation of their mood. Cialdini (et. al, 1987) proposed that when one is watching another’s suffering is can create a temporary sadness that can make them more inclined to help. To prove this point, the researchers replicated the experiment of Batson (et. al, 1981) adding tests for mood and rewards. The reward was given as a way to elevate the participants’ mood without changing their empathetic nature to the worker.
Evaluation of arguments Batson and his colleagues argue that people help each other not from unpleasant emotions of seeing someone suffering, but from the increase of unpleasant emotions that they could not help (guilt or shame). Batson et al. believe that when people help each other, it is a desire of an increase in distress or increase the benefit of the person in need. In their perspective, helping another person should not be to feel good about doing something for someone, but genuinely helping someone because there is a feeling of compassion and care. It is not about gaining fame or becoming. Robert Cialdini (et. al, 1987) believes that empathy unaccompanied cannot motivate people in helping each other and that these people help themselves to feel better. Cialdini explains this process as the Negative State Relief Model. They believe that people help each other because they want to avoid experiencing negative feelings for not helping. When one feels a certain powerful emotion by another person being hurt or in need of help that will be what motivates them to help that person in the process it would also relieve them from bothering emotion the person who is helping was feeling. Not only does it alleviate the emotion but it also makes the person feel a sense of relief.
Deciding Argument Batson and Cialdini provided great arguments however I think Batson and his colleagues I believe that the empathy for others when they are need of help is a key motivator for a person to help. Batson (et. al, 1981) points out that Altruistic helping are a result of empathic feelings for others. Although there may not be concise experimental evidence that does demonstrate that people help for purely altruistic reasons there is experimental evidence that does support the importance of empathy in generating altruistic helping behavior. In addition the study points out that even when individuals high in empathetic concern can escape they will still help (Batson et. al, 1981).
One may ask if humans care about other individuals solely for their sakes or do ulterior motives exist? The answer to this question is still heavily debated by many. Some similar to myself agree in Batson's argument that true altruism does exist and then there are others that agree with the opposing argument that true altruism does not exist. Further research is needed to truly determine whether true altruism exists or not.

Batson, C., Duncan, B. D., Ackerman, P., Buckley, T., & Birch, K. (1981). Is Empathic Emotion a Source of Altruistic Motivation?. Journal Of Personality & Social Psychology, 40(2), 290-302.
Cialdini, Robert B., Mark Schaller, Donald Houlihan, Kevin Arps, Jim Fultz, and Arthur L. Beaman (1987), "Empathy-Based Helping: Is It Selflessly or Selfishly Motivated?," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 749-758.
Fiske, S. T. (2010). Social beings: Core Motives in Social Psychology (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Nier, J. A. (2009). Taking sides: Clashing views in social psychology (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.

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