Why Do People Help Others?

Topics: Altruism, Kin selection, Inclusive fitness Pages: 2 (620 words) Published: October 8, 1999
To discuss why people help others we must consider whether people are by nature selfless or selfish. The dominant view today in psychology is of universal egoism; that we are fundamentally selfish, and that altruism (helping motivated by the wish to benefit another person) an impossibility.One form of universal egoism is Piliavin et al's "arousal: cost-reward" model, whereby faced with a potential helping situation we weigh the probable costs and rewards of alternative courses of action, then arrive at a decision which produces the best outcome for ourselves.Darley and Batson (1973) conducted an experiment into the effect of the cost time in the decision to offer help. They found that 63% of students with plenty of time to get to their next lecture helped a man clearly ill in the doorway, whilst 45% who were right on schedule helped, but only 10% of those who were late. However, although a natural setting was used, as an experiment this evidence is not very ecologically valid.The Sociobioligical approach also sees helping as egoistic, but in terms of the individual maximising their inclusive fitness (increasing the chances of their genes being passed on), rather than their personal fitness. This seems to be the case when we look at the apparent altruistic behaviour of various species. For example, when a honey bee dies when stinging an enemy, "...by their sacrifice they are increasing the reproductive chances of their fertile relatives thus ensuring that their genes are transmitted to future generations." (Wilson, 1976). Socio-biology can therefore account for self-sacrifice and impulsive helping.It could also help us to understand racism. Piliavin found that there is evidence of racism occurring in our decisions to help when he found that blacks were much more likely to help a black drunk, and whites a white drunk. This suggests that we are less likely to help those with the least genes in common with us.Chagnon &...
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