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Piliavin and altruism l.jpg

Piliavin and Altruism

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The Holocaust

  •      In the debate over whether helping is ever truly altruistic, some have pointed to the behaviour of those who helped hide Jews from the Nazis during World War II. Was the behaviour of those individuals truly altruistic? As you can imagine, there was great risk for those who helped, but was it an example of genuine altruism?

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A Fall from Above

  •      In 1987, 18-month-old Jessica McClure fell down a water well in a backyard in Midland, Texas in 1987. Literally hundreds of volunteers worked around the clock to free her. The undying spirit that surrounded her rescue was truly amazing. Why did these people help? Were they truly concerned for Jessica's well-being? Are the norms for helping different when a child is involved?

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Defining Altruism

  •      Altruism is helping motivated by the desire to increase another's welfare. Decide for yourself whether the following are altruistic examples.

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  • 1. A man puts money in a blind beggar's cup.

  • 2. A woman gives money to children in need on red nose day

  • 3. A child helps her classmate with her homework.

  • 4. A paramedic administers mouth to mouth resuscitation at the scene of an accident.

  • 5. A professor helps a student during office hours.

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  • Who do we help?

  • When do we help?

  • Why do we help?

  • Who do we not help?

  • When do we not help?

  • Why do we not help?

  • Are we truly altruistic or do we act out of selfishness?

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The Case of Kitty Genovese

  • Three attacks - the third was fatal

  • Neighbours watch from windows

  • 35 minute lapse between start of attack and the police being called

  • “We thought it was a lovers’ quarrel”

  • “We were afraid. I didn’t want my husband to get involved”

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The Case of Kitty Genovese

  • “I put out the light and we were able to see better”

  • “I don’t know [why we didn’t call the police]”

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Piliavin, Rodin and Piliavin (1969)


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Previous Theories

  • Bystanders derogate the victim (Lerner & Simmons, 1966)

  • Diffusion of responsibility (Darley and Latane 1968)

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Lerner and Simmons (1966)

  • Lerner and Simmons (1966) conducted an experiment reminiscent of Milgram’s famous study. They brought a group of subjects to the lab to participate in a study allegedly concerning perception of emotional cues.

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Lerner and Simmons (1966)

  • One of the subjects (a confederate) was selected to perform a memory task and "received" a painful shock after each mistake, as the other subjects watched. When the audience subjects were asked to evaluate the victim, they showed reactions of devaluation and rejection, as if it was the victim’s fault for being shocked - said they could not believe he was so stupid.

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Laboratory study by Latane and Darley 1968

  • Brought subject into lab where they were to discuss personal problems with an unseen person or persons in another room via intercom. Some subjects talked to only one other person; some to two others; some to 5 others.

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Laboratory study by Latane and Darley 1968

  • One person being talked to (a confederate) would indicate early in conversation that he had a seizure disorder. Then later, he would stutter and cry out that he was having a seizure.

  • Experimental Question: Would the subject try to help him?

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Laboratory study by Latane and Darley 1968

  • When subject thought it was just him or herself and the person in trouble, all helped.

  • When subject thought that there were 5 other people, only 62% helped out.

  • Explained as no one individual feeling responsible for helping – diffusion of responsibility.

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Piliavin, Rodin and Piliavin Independent Variables

  • 1.Drunk or cane

  • 2.Black or White

  • 3.Early, Late or No model

  • 4.Model initially sitting in the critical area or adjacent area.

  • 5.The number of people on the train.

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Piliavin, Rodin and Piliavin Dependent Variables

  • 1.The time taken to help.

  • 2.The race of the helper.

  • 3.The percentage of trials in which passengers (subjects) left the critical area.

  • 4.The number of comments made.

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Method - Participants

  • 4450 men and women on New York Subway train

  • Weekdays 11:00 - 15:00, April to June, 1968

  • 45% Black, 55% White

  • Mean of 8.5 people in Critical area

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The field situation

  • No stops between 59th street and 125th street for 7½ minutes

  • End of a carriage used that had a door leading to next carriage

  • 13 seats plus standing room

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  • Four different teams

  • Each team had 4 students - 2 male and 2 female

  • 103 trials

  • Location varied from trial to trial

  • 2 female observers sit in adjacent area

  • Male victim and model stand in critical area

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  • As the train passes the first station after 70 seconds the victim staggers forwards and collapses

  • Remains supine looking up at the ceiling until help arrives

  • If nobody helps before the stop, the model helps the victim off the train

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The victim

  • Male between 26 and 35 years old

  • 3 white and 1 black

  • Eisenhower jackets, old slacks and no tie

  • 38 trials ‘drunk’ - smelt of liquor, bottle in paper bag

  • 65 trials ‘cane condition’ - appeared sober and carried a black cane

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  • Students didn’t like playing the drunk

  • So not enough ‘drunk’ trials

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  • White males

  • Aged between 24 and 29

  • Informal clothes

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Model conditions

  • Critical area - early (70 seconds after collapse)

  • Critical area - late (150 seconds after collapse)

  • Adjacent area - early

  • Adjacent area - late

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Percentage of trials in which help was given

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  • Race sex location

  • Number of individuals

  • Number who helped

  • Latency of first helper’s arrival after the victim has fallen

  • Comments made

  • Comments elicited from passenger next to observer

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  • Cane victim given spontaneous help on 62 out of 65 trials

  • Drunk given spontaneous help on 19 out of 38 trials

  • Difficult to run model trials because of spontaneity of help

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Percentage of trials in which help was given

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  • 60% of the time help was given by more than one person

  • Real helpers dragged the victim to a seat whereas the models were instructed to raise the victim to a sitting position leaving him on the floor

  • Additional helpers were not influenced by the race of the victim nor by whether he appeared drunk or not

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Characteristics of spontaneous first helpers

  • 60% of passengers were males and 90% of first helpers were males

  • 55% of passengers were white and 64% of first helpers were white

  • Tendency towards “same race” helping

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Characteristics of spontaneous first helpers

  • Mainly helpers of the same race helped the ‘drunk’ victim

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Modeling Effects

  • Remember there was little opportunity to perform model trials owing to the high level of spontaneous help given

  • Drunk trials analysed (Too few trials possible for Cane)

  • There was significantly more helping with the early model compared with the late

  • No significant difference in helping with regard to in which area the model had been standing

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Leaving the Critical Area

  • No one left the carriage but on 21 out of 103 trials 34 people did leave.

  • More people left the critical area when the victim was ‘drunk’

  • More people left if help was not offered after 70 seconds

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Comments made

  • More comments made in the ‘drunk’ condition

  • More comments were made after 70 seconds

  • Women commented “It’s for men to help him”

  • “I wish I could help him – I’m not strong enough….. I never saw this kind of thing before – I don’t know where to look”

  • “You feel so bad that you don’t know what to do”

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Diffusion of responsibility

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Diffusion of responsibility

  • The ‘Diffusion of responsibility’ hypothesis predicts that as the number of passengers increase there would be less likelihood of help being offered.

  • There is no evidence to support this

  • If anything the opposite is found. Passengers responded more quickly when there were more of them

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Diffusion of responsibility

  • Problem: You can not compare different sized groups because it could be argued that as group size increases there is a greater chance of a ‘good Samaritan’ being present

  • So is it group processes that cause a larger group to act or is it just that there is a greater chance of a ‘natural-born’ Samaritan being there?

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Diffusion of Responsibility

  • Groups of three passengers were present 6 times and groups of seven passengers were present 5 times

  • Hypothetical (Control) groups of three or seven passengers were constructed by combining information from smaller groups

  • E.g 1+2=3, 1+6=7, 2+5=7, 3+4=7

  • The latency from the faster of the two real groups were used as the hypothetical latency

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Reason for lack of support for Diffusion of Responsibility

  • In Darley and Latane’s experiment the victim could not be seen

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  • An individual who appears to be ill is more likely to receive aid than is one who appears to be drunk, even when the immediate help needed is of the same kind.

  • Given mixed groups of men and women, and a male victim, men are more likely to help than are women.

  • Given mixed racial groups, there is some tendency for same-race helping to be more frequent. This tendency is increased when the victim is drunk as compared to apparently ill.

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  • The longer the emergency continues without help being offered

  • (a) the less impact a model has on the helping behaviour of observers;

  • (b) the more likely it is that individuals will leave the immediate area; that is, they appear to move purposively to another area in order to avoid the situation;

  • (c) the more likely it is that observers will discuss the incident and its implications for their behaviour.

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  • There is no strong relationship between number of bystanders and speed of helping; the expected increased "diffusion of responsibility" with a greater number of bystanders was not obtained for groups of these sizes. That is, help is not less frequent or slower in coming from larger as compared to smaller groups of bystanders, what effect there is, is in the opposite direction.

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Proposed model

  • Observation of an emergency increases arousal

  • Arousal is interpreted as fear, disgust, sympathy or a combination of these

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Arousal is higher when

  • You can empathise with the victim

  • You are close to a victim

  • The emergency continues for a long time

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Arousal is reduced when

  • Help is given directly

  • You go to get help

  • You leave the scene of the emergency

  • You reject the victim as undeserving of your help

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The costs of helping

  • Effort

  • Embarrassment

  • Possible disgusting or distasteful experiences

  • Possible physical harm

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The costs of not helping

  • Self-blame

  • Perceived censure from others

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Rewards of helping

  • Praise from self

  • Praise from victim

  • Praise from others

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Rewards of not helping

  • You are able to continue with other activities

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Does altruism exist?

  • According to Piliavin’s model we help others purely for selfish reasons

  • Mainly to reduce our anxiety or guilt

  • Not a very positive way of looking at why humans help each other

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Fitting the results to the model

  • Cost of helping drunk is high (greater disgust) and cost of not helping is low (less self-blame as he does not deserve your help)

  • Women help less because cost of helping is high (great effort) and cost of not helping is low (nobody would blame a woman for not helping)

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Fitting the results to the model

  • Same-race helping explained as less censure for not helping a victim of opposite race and greater fear of a misunderstanding if help is given to a member of another race

  • Diffusion of responsibility not shown because greater censure for not helping when group is large and greater danger when group is small

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Fitting the results to the model

  • The longer the emergency continues the greater the arousal

  • A late model elicits less helping as passengers have had time to reason away the arousal

  • More people leave as time goes on as arousal is increasing unless already reduced by other means

  • More comments made as time goes on in an attempt to reduce arousal

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