Discuss Factors That Facilitate or Impede Helping Behaviours

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Last updated: June 16, 2019

Discuss factors that facilitate or impede helping behaviour Pro-social behaviour can be defined as ‘any actions that benefit another regardless of the benefits or self-sacrifices of the actor’ (Wispe 1972, as cited in Collins 2004).

A subcategory of pro-social behaviour is helping behaviour, which can be defined as an intentional behaviour or act that benefits another human being. There are many factors that can facilitate or impede helping behaviour and it is important to recognise the situations in which this may occur.One of the key events that spurred the interest of psychologists in relation to helping behaviour and what facilitates and impedes such acts was the murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964 (as cited in Collins 2004). Kitty was walking home from work when she was attacked and murdered by a man. It was claimed that Kitty screamed, shouted and attempted to defend herself. It has been reported that 38 people heard her screams and many witnessed the attack, which lasted for over 40 minutes, from their windows. However, nobody tried to help her and nobody phoned the police.

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This developed the question as to what causes people to help and act in a ‘pro-social’ manner. A further subcategory of helping behaviour is altruistic behaviour (altruism). Altruism is concerned with the motives for carrying out an act of helping, and is a more specific behaviour. Altruism can be defined as ‘helping behaviour that is voluntary, costly to the altruist and motivated by something other than the expectation of material or social reward’ ( Walster and Piliavin 1972). Altruism differs from helping, in that there is a lack of concern for one’s self-interest and that the regard is ultimately for the interest of others.One of the major interests to psychologists is the concern as to whether altruism really exists and what is truly altruistic.

It has been suggested that acts of apparent altruism may be better explained in terms of egoism. Egoism is more concerned with the interest of one’s self and less for the interest of others. This therefore allows for the question to arise as to whether altruism truly exists, or whether people may only help in a situation where there may be a certain degree of benefit or reward to themselves.In a study by Gouldner (1960), he studied social relationships and specifically reciprocity, in which he found evidence that people feel obligated to return benefits they receive from others. Gouldner also claimed that people tend to become adverse to overbenefitting in social support situations and feel more comfortable with underbenefitting.

This therefore supports the suggestion that the act of altruism exists, as it appears that the norm of society implies that people do not gear towards gaining benefits in social support situations.Batson’s empathy-altruism hypothesis (Batson et al 1981 as cited in Collins 2004) looks at what facilitates a helping behaviour and considers however that altruistic may be better explained as a consequence of empathy. Empathy involves truly understanding the depth of another’s emotional condition or state (i. e. feeling miserable when we meet someone who is miserable). A helping behaviour can therefore be considered to be triggered as a result of empathy when we see somebody who is in distress and requires help.Batson suggests that those who feel a strong sense of empathy towards another are more likely to understand how they may feel in a certain situation and will therefore be more likely to help.

Batsons hypothesis suggests that in a situation where a person is in distress, the ability to perceive another’s point of view will cause empathic concern. Batson suggests that when we see someone in such a situation, our empathic concern leads to a similar feeling of personal distress. He suggested that any helping behaviour is carried out as a result of egoism and the drive to reduce our own personal distress, rather than as a result of altruism.Fultz et al (1986), (as cited in Collins 2004), suggests also that people may help in such situations in accordance with avoiding the disapproval of others. Other theories of what leads to helping behaviour include the negative-state relief model, proposed by Caldini et al in 1987 (Collins 2004). This model suggests that when we feel an experience of a negative state, such as sorrow or guilt, we are more motivated and more likely to help others in order to alleviate our mood. As such behaviour is personally rewarding, it eliminates the negative feelings.

This view is similar to Batson’s hypothesis in that it suggests that the motivation to help another is egotistic. In contrast to this view, Wyatt 1978 (Blackboard 18/03/2010), proposed that if the negative state is neither guilt or sadness and instead a person is merely in a bad mood, then they will become more inner-focused and will be less concerned for the feelings or welfare of others and are less likely to help. When considering the likelihood of a person in a good mood helping others, it appears that again there are contrasting views.In a study by Isen and Levin in 1972 (Collins 2004), they carried out in an experiment in a shopping mall where participants either did or did not find money (10 cents) in a phone booth. As the person left the phone booth, a confederate walked by the participant and dropped sheaf’s of paper.

The study found the 84 per cent of those who found the money assisted in helping to pick up the papers, whereas only 4 per cent of those who did not find the money assisted in helping.This study suggests that when people are in a good mood, they are more to likely to carry out a helping behaviour. This therefore challenges the view that altruistic behaviour has the purely egotistic motivation of relieving one’s negative mood. Later on however in 1984, Isen suggested that if helping is more likely to spoil our mood, we are less likely to help, proposing that a good mood does not always facilitate helping behaviour (Blackboard 18/03/2010). Another important factor involved in helping behaviour is the influence of others, known as bystander effects.

When considering the incident involving the murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964, Darley and Latane (1968), (as cited in Collins 2004) proposed that the fact that were so many possible helpers may have contributed to the lack of intervention. They proposed a cognitive model of helping which they used as a possible explanation as to the reluctance of others to help in situations such as the one involving Kitty Genovese. The first component of the model is known as the ‘diffusion of responsibility’, involving the suggestion that when a person is alone in a situation where somebody needs help, they feel solely responsible for providing that help.In a situation where two people may be involved, the responsibility is divided and the more people there are, the further the responsibility is divided. When there are many people involved, each person may feel less and less individually responsible.

The second component of Darley and Latane’s cognitive model is known as ‘pluralistic ignorance’, which suggests that when it comes to deciding whether to help a person, we look to observe the behaviour of other bystanders. Darley and Latane propose that if one person offers to help, or declares the situation as an emergency, we are more likely to follow suit.However, if nobody chooses to become involved or offers to help, we are less likely to offer assistance also. In effect, each bystander looks to the behaviour of each other in order to guide their own behaviour. The final component of the model is ‘the decision model’, where Darley and Latane propose a five-stage model to explain the reasons why bystanders sometimes do or do not help in a case of an emergency.

They suggest that the decision to help may be inhibited at any stage of the process. The first stage of the model is whether the bystander noticed the situation. If they did, they have the option to help or not.At stage two, the model considers whether the bystander interprets the situation as an emergency.

At this stage, one may look to the behaviours of bystanders to determine whether there is a state of emergency or not, at which stage they will make an individual decision whether to help. Stage three involves whether or not a person feels a sense of responsibility to help. They may not due to the assumption that somebody else will help.

This process is known as ‘diffusion’. A person may be less likely to help if they perceive that there is potential personal risk or if they believe that others are better prepared to help.Stage four involves whether or not a person feels competent to help in the situation, if they do not then they are less likely to help. Stage five involves the perception of those who do feel competent to help.

If the situation is likely to be dangerous to the helper, or the recipient of help is hostile, then the competent person will be less likely to help. When considering the facilitation or impedance of helping behaviour, Darley an Latane offer a useful explanation as to how the presence of bystanders may contribute to whether a person will help or not.An alternative theory to Darley and Latane’s cognitive model is the arousal:cost-reward model, which was developed by Pivialin et al in 1981 (Collins 2004) to explain the results of their study, ‘The Subway Samaritan’.

In this study, Pivialin looked at the effects of the type of person in need when a person is deciding whether to offer assistance. They looked at the effect of a person appearing ill or drunk, and the effects of their race (black or white) on whether a person helps.The study involved a confederate ‘collapsing’ on a New York subway train and remaining there until somebody offered to help. The study showed that those who appeared ill were more likely to be helped than those who appeared drunk, and indicated that the race of the ‘victim’ had little effect on whether they were helped. The arousal:cost-reward model was used to offer an explanation to ‘The Subway Samaritan’ study and suggests that when a person comes across somebody who is in need, they experience three stages before they decide to respond or leave the situation.The first stage is ‘physiological arousal’. It is suggested that when we see someone in distress we become physiologically aroused, and the greater the arousal the more likely we are to help.

In a laboratory study, Gaertner and Dovidio (1977), (as cited in Collins 2004), found that when a person perceived a situation as an ’emergency’ their heart rate increased, and the faster the heart rate, the faster the response. The second stage, known as ‘labelling the arousal’, involves suggesting that how we interpret the arousal, plays a critical role in determining the emotion we experience.Depending on the arousal we feel, for example personal distress, determines how likely we are to help. The final stage of the model is the ‘cost-benefit analysis’ and involves evaluating the consequences of helping. According to Pivialin, the costs of helping include time, effort, loss of resources, such as damaging clothes, risk of personal harm and negative emotional responses, such as feeling physically sick). In contrast, benefits of helping may include social approval, such as being thanked by the victim, an increase in self-esteem and positive emotional responses, such as feelings of elation.

Pivialin suggested also that a person may assess the costs of not helping when making their decision, such as disapproval (e. g. no rewards from the victim), damaged self-esteem and feelings of guilt.

The Pivialin model has been used in a number of studies and has indicated that increased potential benefits of helping will lead to to an in crease in helping behaviour, whereas increased potential costs will be more likely to impede helping behaviour.When considering the characteristics of the person in need, studies such as those carried out by Pivialin et al (1981) have generally shown that we are more likely to help somebody who we perceive to be similar to ourselves, those to whom are physically attracted and those who are less able than ourselves. In contrast, we are less likely to help those who are not attractive, those who are disfigured and those whom we perceive to be responsible for the situation.When considering the characteristics of the potential helper, Bierhoff et al (1991), (as cited in Collins 2004) observed the personal characteristics of those who chose to help at a road traffic accident. Bierhoff found that the characteristics of those who did help involved high internal locus of control, a feeling of social responsibility, the ability to empathise, and were less egocentric.

Interestingly, Steele and Southwick (1985), (as cited in Collins 2004), found that the consumption of alcohol sometimes encourages helping behaviour. They suggested that this may be due to alcohol reducing inhibitions and a persons awareness of danger.In conclusion, it appears that the reasons people carry out a helping behaviour varies in terms of altruistic motivation and egotistic motivation, and it appears that there is still a lack of conclusion as to the real reasons behind helping behaviour.

Additionally, research indicates that many different factors undoubtedly determine helping behaviour and whether a person will choose to help somebody in need. These range from the seriousness of the situation, potential personal harm and the presence of others, to the characteristics of the potential helper and the person in need.All of these factors combined contribute to facilitating or impeding helping behaviour and to determining whether a person will choose whether or not to assist in certain situations.References Collins, Psychology for A2-Level, Cardwell, Clark and Meldrum, 2004 Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Vol. 12, No. 4, 483-502 (1995), (as cited

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