Altruism & helping behaviour

However, Darley argued that there is no such thing as true altruism and the true and basic motive for human behaviour is self interest. This led to the development of the egoist model which suggests that if a person feels discomfort, anxiety or are upset by seeing a victim in need, they help to reduce their own distress. This theory is supported by various studies, including Cialdini (1987). It is also supported by Piliavin’s Arousal: Cost-Reward Model of Bystander Behaviour. This is because when we are faced with a potential altruistic situation, we weigh up the costs and benefits and decide on the outcome which is best- for us.

The universal egoism model is supported by many studies. Cialdini et al (1982) found that people in a positive mood are open to all sorts of helping (to maintain positive mood), while people put in a negative mood are open to helping only when it will boost mood (benefits outweigh costs). The Socio-biological 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.

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A reason for this could be this as close as possible they can get to immortality.

This model 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.

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A criticism of this model is that there is some evidence which suggests that people do not always act selfishly. Some people display impulsive helping, where they help even when costs are high and benefits are lower.

Also we may only feel distress when we are attached to the victim, therefore this model cannot explain all altruistic behaviour. When looking at altruism research, the limitations of altruism research need to be considered. One limitation is that the situation often determines whether one is motivated by egoism or altruism. Even with altruism, helping may not occur if the costs are too high. But egoistic motivation can lead to greater dedication when the costs are high. Also altruistic and egoistic motivations are sometimes indistinguishable.

I do think that empathy is more likely to result in helping and is more likely to lead to the type and amount of helping needed. Extrinsic motivation may result in over justification and reduced helping in the future. The evidence seems to support the idea of universal egoism; in deciding whether to help or not, humans are fundamentally selfish, and altruism is impossibility. However, it is very difficult to separate altruistic and egoistic factors so the best explanation for the motives behind altruism may lie between the two hypotheses.

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Altruism & helping behaviour. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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