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Altruism in humans

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Altruism in humans A01: Batson used his Empathy - Altruism Model (EAM) to suggest that people do act altruistically. When someone witnesses a distressing event, they experience 2 kinds of upset: > Personal distress: a general unpleasant feeling that the person would want to reduce as soon as possible. > Empathy: feeling compassion and sympathy for the victim thus see things from the victim's perspective. Perspective taking is affected by the perceived similarity between victim and helper and any attachment (friendship or kinship) the helper has with the victim. People who help to reduce personal distress help for selfish or egocentric reasons, whereas those who help because of empathic concern do so for altruistic reasons. They want to relieve the other persons personal distress, not their own! Another factor is the ease with which one can escape from the helping situation. If it is easy to escape, then this action will help to reduce feelings of personal distress but not true feelings of empathy. ...read more.


Conclusions: These findings support Batsons view that similar attitudes encourage empathy, and increased empathy increases the likelihood of an altruistic gesture. Criticisms: + 1) Lots of experimental evidence to support Batsons views. The research, being lab based, is relatively easy to replace to assess reliability and validity. There is also good control of variables. It does establish a link between empathy and altruism and it is true that increased empathy for someone will, in some circumstances increase the likelihood of helping. 2) As much of the evidence is drawn from lab research it is somewhat reductionlist and overly simplistic. Things get a lot more complicated in real world situations where considerations of family, friends, money, jobs etc... affect people's behaviour therefore it has low ecological validity. 3) Participants may have guessed that the electric shock were not real and may have acted to please the experimenter (Demand characteristics). This makes it less valid. They may also have been distressed by the experience if they believed the socks to be real, but this could overcome at the end by debriefing. ...read more.


The reduction of their negative state in this was meant that they didn't have to help reduce their negative feelings (conclusion). Criticisms: 1) It's been found in numerous studies that being in a good mood results in more pro-social behaviour. Research have found people to be more helpful after listening to comedy, smelling pleasant odours, after finding money or by going outside on sunny days (Boron and Byrne,199.......). However if people feel their good mood will be affected by helping then they are more likely to not help and walk. 2) Artificial studies: all lab studies are extremely artificial and lack ecological validity. Behaviour in the real world is subject to many other factors, such as social and cultural influences on behaviour - none of which are explored in these lab settings. Therefore it is difficult to generalise lab findings to a wider context. 3) People have criticised Cialdini et al for proposing to negative a view of human behaviour. However the selfish view of human behaviour might be right. 4) Helping does help negative state: it's not in dispute those helping others/ another person in need does lead to an improved mood for the helper. So it has face validity. ...read more.

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