Social Psychology Studies Altruism

Social Psychology Studies Altruism

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    • 00:00

      [MUSIC PLAYING][Social Psychology Studies Altruism]

    • 00:11

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK: Hi, I'm Dr. Catherine Borshuk.[Catherine Borshuk, PhD, Associate Professor,Department of Psychology, Indiana University, South Bend]I teach Social Psychology at Indiana University, South Bend,and I'm here to talk about Social PsychologyStudy of Altruism.We've got a long history in our field of the study of altruism,and we want to go through some of this today.We'll give a little bit of history and backgroundon our study of altruism and social psychology.

    • 00:33

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: I'm going to define the concept, and also wewill look at factors that lead to altruistic behaviors.We're going to also be able to demonstrate how the conceptitself has changed quite a bit over the years,and maybe look even a little bit at critiquing the waythat our research paradigms have actually ended up

    • 00:53

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: constraining our definition and understandingof altruistic behavior.[History of Research on Altruism]So let's begin with the definition of altruism.One that's commonly accepted is that altruism consistsof actions that are carried out voluntarily--that part's important-- voluntarily,

    • 01:13

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: not coerced-- for the sole purpose of helping others.Philosophers stop there and say, what do youmean, the sole purpose of helping others?So I get a good feeling from helping other people.Does that mean it's not altruistic?So because of that, we tack a little bit moreonto the end of our definition-- the sole purposeof helping others with no expectation of rewardfrom extremal sources.

    • 01:36

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: The idea here is that if we didn't even feel good--if we got zero intrinsic reward from behavingin ways that benefit other people--we may not ever do them.So we add that little bit at the end of our definition--no expectation of reward from external sources.So if I do you a great favor because I'mhoping you're going to give me $1,000,we don't actually call that altruism.

    • 01:58

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: You might also think of donation behaviorsin that sort of light, as well.If I'm doing this for a tax write-off,or because I get some other sort of financial incentive,or other external benefit, we don't call that altruism--at least not in my field.OK?So we have the definition.Let's look at some of the research about altruism.

    • 02:19

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: You may know that the study of altruismdidn't begin, but really became formalized,with the introduction of the theory of bystanderintervention.Now every social psychology studenthas heard about the sad fate of a young woman namedKitty Genovese.She was tragically, sadly, horrifically attacked

    • 02:40

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: and murdered in New York City in 1964.And the salient part of the story for social psychologistsis that 37 witnesses did nothing.Some of us may ask, why isn't the salient partof the story the attack and murder of a woman instead?But keep in mind in social psychology whatinterested all the researchers and people

    • 03:02

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: interested in this case was the factthat there was 37 onlookers who didn't do anything to help.So this was the terrible event thatreally set the stage for the study of bystanderintervention, which was developed through a laboratorysimulation experiment by Bibb Latane and John Darley,a couple of social psychologists.Now in their research they found and recognized

    • 03:25

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: a very important effect called the bystander effect,which is when other witnesses around, each individual is muchless likely to actually intervene in an emergencysituation due to something that they called diffusionof responsibility.In other words, if I'm the only personwho witnesses an emergency event,I'm going to be much more likely to go in and helpbecause it's only me.

    • 03:46

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: However, if there's 5, or 4, or 37 other people around,I'm going to be less likely to dial a phone number,to call in emergency services, or to run out and get involvedmyself because I'm diffusing my feeling of responsibilityonto those 36 or 3 other people and saying,somebody else will take care of this.So that was the hypothesis that comes out of that research,

    • 04:09

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: and it's an important finding.Certainly since the 1960s, the theoryof bystander intervention has developed quite a bitsince then, eventually coming into a full-blown cognitivemodel of when do people help out in emergency situations.And in this model, individuals areconceived of actually going through several mental stages

    • 04:31

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: in terms of deciding when to help out.The bystander theory now runs from the very beginningwhen one notices that help might beneeded in a situation-- you're in your environment,you're not paying a lot of attention to other people,all of a sudden something happens.And you say wait, does that person-- are theyin need of help?Do they need something from me?

    • 04:51

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: And we have lots of research on thisthat demonstrate if you're in a hurry,you're less likely to notice that other people need help.Haste is not good for intervening.If you're focused and directing on your own goal achievementand you need to get to place A at this time,you may not notice what's happening around you.

    • 05:12

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: So that's the first part of this model.Of course, the second part of this modelis when you see something and you notice something,are you going to interpret that, in fact, help reallyis needed in this certain situation?So if you see people having a fight-- seem to be arguing,seem to be pushing-- are they actually engagingin aggression?Is there something worrying and serious happening here?

    • 05:36

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: Or is it simply a little bit of roughhousing and playing?So we have to interpret the situation correctly.And then once again, the more people thatare around and interpreting it in one way,you're more likely to go along with them.This we call pluralistic ignorance.If nobody knows what's happening,you don't know what's happening, we allengage in this collective group shrug and go on our way.

    • 05:56

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: So again, we have to interpret in our own mindswhat's the situation and in fact help mustbe needed in this situation.Even that's not enough to make us jump in and do something.In the bystander theory, we have to assume responsibility.In other words, once you've noticeda situation you've interpreted as a help-needing situation,

    • 06:17

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: at that point we have to say, it's up to me.This is where Latane and Darley's bystander effect--or diffusion of responsibility hypothesis-- really kicks in.Because if there's a lot of other people around,again, remember I as an individualwill be less likely-- any individual wouldbe less likely-- to actually jump in to help with a larger

    • 06:39

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: number of people around.So one assumes responsibility more likelywhen one is actually alone.So if you are alone in a dark alley,you see something sketchy going on, you notice it,you interpret it as somebody is in danger,somebody is becoming victimized, somethingneeds to happen to help this person, and you're the only onethere-- the idea is that in this scenario,

    • 07:01

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: you're going to be much more likely to help if it's just youalone in that dark alley.However, let's say there's a bunch of reallybig, scary-looking guys and you don'tfeel like you're up to it-- you don't have the skills,you don't have the martial arts training,maybe all you have is a cell phone.Is that going to be enough?So the next stage of this theory is

    • 07:23

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: that you have to assess whether you have the skills to help.Sometimes you do.I have seen people run into trafficto rescue a dog that walks along a highway.Would we all be able to do that?Some people do have emergency medical training.That would be very helpful.I don't.I wouldn't have the skills to help.So assessing one's own ability to help

    • 07:45

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: is an important part of this model.And finally we yet still have to engage.And there's a lot of research that'sgone into what is that very last situation about?The very last piece of our scenarioof our mental decision-making about helping.We do know that people with fewer inhibitionswill be more likely to engage.Unfortunately, this makes us kind of conclude

    • 08:06

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: that if somebody has had a few stiff drinks they'remore likely to intervene.You may know this, noticed this from experienceyou've had-- perhaps in a bar, or a tavern,sometime that once people have had a fewthey're less likely to mind their own business--more likely to jump in.Of course, we always think if you're really, trulyin a help-needing situation, the last thing

    • 08:27

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: you want is the local drunk to come in and help you,but that might in fact be what you end up with.So that is our whole model there-- the cognitive modelof bystander intervention.[Other Types of Altruism]However, since that research has developedthrough the 60s, the 70s, the 80s,

    • 08:48

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: we have started to pay attention that there are, in fact,other types of altruism.While bystander theory is really effective at helpingus to figure out who might rush into a burning building to savea child, or who might try to stopa violent attack on the street, or who might run over and helpan elderly person who seems to have fallen,

    • 09:09

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: it's not really effective at helping us to predictother types of altruism.We have something called nurturant altruism, whichis quite different from the heroic type of altruismthat bystander intervention theory addresses.Nurturant altruism is the type of altruismthat's associated with caretaking, with people

    • 09:31

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: looking out for other people.For example, it's not very heroic to approach a coworkerwho's weeping at her desk.But we know that certain people will go outof their way-- in experimental research,we've learned that people will do incredible loops to getaround that weeping coworker.They will go down the stairs at the back of the building

    • 09:52

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: and through the whole building and up stairsin a whole different wing of the buildingin order to not walk by the weeping coworker.Other individuals will stop and say, hey, what's wrong?Are you OK?Is there anything I can do?I have tissues, I have brownies, I can make you a cup of tea.What's going on?That's definitely a very different kind of altruismthat the bystander research really never

    • 10:16

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: addressed very much-- that caretaking, nurturant altruism.We see this in our culture all the time--that there's lots of nurturant, altruistic behaviors.Elderly people who need long-term caretaking-- thosewho step up, and engage, and say, Iwill commit my time, and my days,and my years to helping an older person cope--

    • 10:38

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: or a person who's sick, helping them cope.That's really an example of nurturant altruismthat was largely overlooked by the bystander paradigm.We can also talk about principled or moral altruism,which has been identified by a researcher namedSam Oliner in his altruistic personality project.Oliner was very interested in the kind of altruism

    • 11:01

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: that led to truly heroic behavior-- what he calledthe righteous Gentiles who saved and rescuedJews and others in Nazi-occupied Europe during the Holocaust.Oliner found-- he went and located many years later,a number of these righteous Gentilesand interviewed them to find out moreabout his type of altruism.

    • 11:22

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: And what he found is that they do sharecertain personality traits, thingsthat you might not even expect.For instance, they're more thrill-seeking.Well, OK, when we think about that,that might make a little bit more sense to us.Also they tend to be non-conformist.They have moralistic role models,but certainly nothing in Oliner's model

    • 11:43

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: really prepares us to think about the number of witnessesaround, or the bystander effect in and of itself.So that's another type of altruismthat I think we should pay attention to in additionto the heroic, dark alley kind of altruism.Let's keep in mind that there are certain people whoare socialized to run into burning buildings,and it's not all of us.

    • 12:03

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: [Other Factors Leading to Altruism]When we think about altruism, surely thereare other factors that we need to take into account as well,and the first one being socialization of individuals.We've learned since Latane and Darley's researchthat certain people are more likely to be socializedto engage in heroic behavior, and others are not.

    • 12:27

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: We might think of the gender differences in altruism here.What sort of folks are in fact encouragedto run out, and be heroes, and go into dark alleys,and break up fights?Usually girls and women are not those people, right?Girls and women are actually told don't go places alone,don't go into dark places, don't enter or engage in a situation

    • 12:48

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: where there's people being aggressive towards each other.You should stay back, and take care of yourself,and stay safe.Maybe that's a different model of altruismthat we have to think of that takes into account these genderdifferences, right?Men and women are socialized into different sortsof helping behavior, certainly in our culture.And speaking of culture, we also know

    • 13:10

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: that cultures differ with regardsto the type of altruistic behavior that's supportive.Some are more supportive of help-giving.Other cultures some more supportive of help-seeking.In an individualistic culture such as North America,we can say that we are less likely to supporthelp-seeking behaviors.I often ask my students, if you're really

    • 13:31

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: stuck to get to school-- you can't get there,the bus is not running, your car does not work,you have a broken leg, what do you do?How many of your students in class-- how many of your fellowstudents in class would you call and ask for a ride?Probably not.Very often I hear from students, oh, I would never ask somebodythat I hardly know.Well, that's because in the culture we're in,we don't support help-seeking behaviors as much

    • 13:54

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: as perhaps collectivist cultures.Meaning, there's not the same amountof emphasis on making sure everybody has their needs metand feeling absolutely free to ask for help when we need it.So culture is another factor in altruism.Finally, I should mention similarityas an important factor in altruism.There's a very robust affect that's

    • 14:16

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: showing that similarity between the helper and the personseeking help has been shown to beone of the most important predictive factors of whowill help someone else.I will be most likely to help somebody who Ifeel is more similar to myself.[Conclusion]

    • 14:36

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: So what we can say about altruism and social psychologyis that we've changed our understanding of the very termover the years since the original bystanderresearch took place.In part, this is due to our expandingwhat we believe is altruism and also usingdifferent paradigms of research in our studyof altruistic behavior.We've also started to look at the impact of culture

    • 14:59

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: on helping, and to look at help-seeking behaviors as wellas help-giving behaviors.A very interesting recent applicationof the bystander effect is the new emphasis or movementon college campuses to train students in bystanderinterventions to prevent sexual assault.What other behaviors will we study in the future

    • 15:19

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: that we aren't examining now in relation to altruism?Certainly the sexual assault prevention workof the last few years is a wonderful new applicationof our research.But while we're thinking about expandingthe definition of altruism, what other kinds of behaviors mightwe include?Perhaps human rights work, social activism,what about even animal rescue?

    • 15:41

      DR. CATHERINE BORSHUK [continued]: Should we start to look at these factorsas well in terms of studying altruism?[MUSIC PLAYING]

Social Psychology Studies Altruism

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Dr. Catherine Borshuk presents an overview of the study into altruism. Starting with the now-debunked story of the attack on Kitty Genovese, Borshuk examines the bystander effect, righteous Gentiles, nurturing behavior, and gender/culture differences in altruistic behavior.

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