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Discuss research into cultural differences in pro-social behaviour

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Discuss research into cultural differences in pro-social behaviour Altruism is a form of pro-social behaviour in which a person will voluntarily help another person at some cost to himself or herself. Bystander intervention is also a form of pro-social behaviour, but at minimal cost to the helper. Hence the major problem for psychologists has been determining what is truly altruistic and what might better be explained in terms of egoism (self interest). Batson's empathy-altruism hypothesis (Batson 1991) explains altruistic behaviour as a consequence of empathetic concern for another person who needs help. According to this model we experience empathy if we feel an emotional response that is consistent with another person's emotional state (e.g. feeling sad when they are sad). Batson believed that as a result of experiencing empathetic concern for another person, we are therefore motivated to help them when they are in distress. ...read more.


Helping someone in need therefore, is personally rewarding, and we are able to eliminate our negative state. According to the negative-state relief model, the main objective in helping behaviour is actually the enhancement of our mood, with such behaviour being egoistic rather than altruistic. Cialdini believed that it didn't matter whether the negative emotions were already present before the opportunity to help arose, or were aroused by the situation itself. In either situation, helping someone in need is seen as a powerful antidote to any negative feelings we may be experiencing. It is a widely held belief that individualists societies (such as the US and UK) stress the need for individual achievement (i.e. independence), whilst collectivist societies (such as China and Russia) stress interdependence where individuals depend on each other. ...read more.


often override the need to act altruistically at all. One problem for any assesment of cultural differences in altruistic behaviour arises from the content in which altruistic behaviour has been studied. Laboratory studies ( the chosen method of enquiry for many Western social psychologists including Batson and Cialdini) have tended to show that people will often go out of their way to avoid seeking help from others. However field studies (particularly those involving Asian cultures) have tended to show that people will seek help when in need. This contrast in findings may not be the product of cultural differences alone. Laboratory-based studies tend to lack the social context of help seeking. Laboratory participants encounter anonymous fellow participants over a limited time period. As a result there would seem little point in trying to develop a social relationship in such a context. In the real world, however, people actively seek out the help of others to extend their social relationships (Moghaddam 1998) Doreender Osei 11/04/04 ...read more.

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