Prosocial Behavior

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Issue Analysis: Prosocial Behavior
Rodney Caliste
Psych 555
University of Phoenix

Issue Analysis: Prosocial Behavior
Human kindness has been studieds for centuries and spawned debates over the reasons behind exhibiting kindness and the lack of it. Prosocial behaviors are those behaviors that involve helping another person; ulterior motives may or may not play a part. Altruism is a prosocial behavior in which helping behavior occurs with no indication of personal benefit. According to Fiske (2010), “altruism describes a motive that makes people help because of genuine concern for others, to increase the welfare of others,” (p. 347). A person acts altruistically when he or she feels empathy for another person and assumes responsibility for helping. Alternate Views of Altruism

Nier’s (2009) article “Does True Altruism Exist?” hosts the debate over whether altruism is inspired by feelings of empathy or if altruistic acts are undermined by self-centered motives. Social psychologists C. Daniel Batson, Bruce D. Duncan, Paula Ackerman, Teresa Buckley, and Kimberly Birch presented their findings on altruism in the article “Is Empathic Emotion a Source of Altruistic Motivation?” (1981). Batson, et.al.’s, position supports the empathy-altruism hypothesis in which empathy leads to altruistic behavior. Nier (2009) defines empathy in his article as “the ability to experience someone else’s feelings by imaging what it would feel like to be in the same situation as another person,” (p. 377). Batson stresses the importance of empathy’s role in altruistic behavior. Social psychologists Robert B. Cialdini, Mark Schaller, Donald Houlihan, Kevin Arps, Jim Fultz, and Arthur L. Beaman refute Batson’s findings in their article titled, “Empathy-Based Helping: Is It Selflessly or Selfishly Motivated?” (1987). Cialdini, et. al., take the opposing view and support the negative state relief theory in which people help others to make themselves feel better. Both positions discuss the differences between altruistic behavior and egoistic behavior. Evaluation of Each Side

Batson, et.al, set out to empirically prove the existence of true altruism, despite the overwhelming amount of literature touting mankind’s egocentrism. Batson acknowledges that helping others is not an indication of altruism per se; it is the end goal that matters. If an individual is empathizing with another person who is in distress, the individual will also feel distress and seek to reduce the feeling. Helping another in order to reduce one’s own level of distress is an egoistic response and not true altruism. Batson’s emphasis on the end goal of helping seems to be the key point in distinguishing between altruism and egoism. Batson’s group set up a thorough study to demonstrate altruistic behavior and the influence of empathy.

Cialdini’s group reconstructed Batson’s study to determine if they would derive similar results while adding an incentive as a variable. Cialdini, et.al, developed the negative state relief model to explain how negative feelings, particularly sadness, can influence an individual’s decision to help others. The effort put forth to help another may be to reduce an internal state of distress rather than someone else’s. Cialdini’s replication of Batson’s experiment provided some insight into other variables that may influence behavior and ultimately determine who is receiving the most benefit in a helping situation. Cialdini’s point of view seems to suggest that man is ultimately selfish and does nothing without getting something in return. Choosing a Side

Before reading Nier’s article on altruism, I assumed I would certainly pick the point of view that attempts to prove the existence of true altruism. Cialdini’s side of the debate presents some valid points and ideas to consider regarding people’s true nature. The negative state relief model challenges the notion that people are basically good. The evidence that people are less likely to help...
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