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Investigating Gender Differences in Helping.

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Introduction

Investigating Gender Differences in Helping.

Aim: To find out whether subjects will help opposite gender students faster than same sex helper would.

Introduction: Altruism is a form of pro-social behaviour in which a person will voluntarily help another at some cost to themselves. The primary motivation for altruistic behaviour is seen as a desire to improve the welfare of another person rather than the anticipation of some reward or for any other reason that might indicate self-interest. One of the major problems for psychologists has been determining what is truly altruistic and what might be better explained in terms of egoism. Batson et al.’s (1997) empathy-altruism hypothesis proposes that empathic concern evokes an altruistic motivation. Studies supporting this hypothesis have systematically varied whether individuals can only obtain egoistic goals by helping, or whether they can escape from the situation and obtain the egoistic goals without helping. These studies demonstrate that at least some people have helping intentions that are not explained by egoistic motivations, such as the relief of personal distress, escaping public shame for not helping, the relief of sadness, and the desire to make oneself happy. In one study, Batson et al. (1981) used a placebo drug which had no real effects but would led participants to interpret their reactions as high or low empathy. Participants then watched a female confederate (‘Elaine’) apparently receiving random electric shocks. After two trials the confederate appeared to become distressed.

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Middle

Both researches agree that when we come across someone in need we are likely to feel sad, and after helping them we are likely to feel happier. The difference is the reasons that we help for. Cialdini believes that we help for selfish reasons to make us feel better about ourselves, whereas Batson’s view is that we help others because the victim needs help and, by helping, we feel better about ourselves. In support of the negative state-relief model Cialdini found that when person feels empathy for another person, they also feel sadness. When the researchers manipulated these two emotions independently, they found that higher levels of sadness produced more helping, whereas increasing the amount of empathy was not accompanied by increasing likelihood of helping the other person. To explain these contradicting findings, Batson argues that we are more likely to feel empathic concern when we feel a close attachment with the person in need and it is possible that this form of altruism has developed as a result of kin selection, the tendency to help members of one’s kin because they carry many of the same genes as you. Research by Batson has found that people are more likely to help others when their similarity to the observer is stressed. On the other hand,

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Conclusion

Limitations are that the sample is too small, and females dropping the letters all looked different, which does not take into account that some females are more likely to be helped than others if they look more attractive or easily approachable. Another limitation is that the study is done at one time of day and in one small area. It could be that only certain type of people walk into town at given time and for example at 12 o’clock on a week day most people are likely to be working and so the people in the streets would most likely be unemployed or retired people which would make the results biased. It might be that those kind of people are less likely to help as they do not feel any empathy or close attachments to the young people or they have less stimulus overload and worries, so their need to alleviate negative emotions is less. As the study is done in one area, it might not be possible to generalise findings to other areas and cultures. It is suggested that individualistic countries are less likely to help than collectivist countries due to the values and beliefs of that culture. Research also shows that in big cities people are less likely to help, which could be attributed to stimulus overload.

Modifications would be to conduct the same experiment in different areas and at different times of day. The sample should be made bigger to get more reliable results.

References

Psychology for A2 Level, Mike Cardwell, Liz Clark, Claire Meldrum (2001)

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