Criticisms of the Negative-state Relief Model Essay
Criticisms of the Negative-state Relief Model
On a negative side, the negative-state relief model is rather limited. First, it suggests that empathy only leads to altruistic behaviour for the selfish reason that it makes us feel better, therefore it doesn’t allow for unselfish motives. Second, research on the effects of mood on helping have produced the reverse findings i. e. people are more likely to help when they are in a good mood. For example, Baron (1990) found that pleasant odours led to better moods and increase helping.
Third, the model is limited, because it only applies to mild negative feelings. According to this model, intense negative feelings should not lead to helping behaviour. Overall Evaluation In evaluation, both theories may in fact be right. Some people may be truly altruistic, whereas others only appear to be altruistic but are actually motivated by egoistic goals. Bystander Behaviour The Decision Model (Latene and Darley (1970))
Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death in New York as she returned home from work. Thirty-nine witnesses heard or observed her ordeal, but none of them intervened. This case shocked America and prompted psychologists Latene and Darley (1968) to investigate situational factors that affect bystander intervention in more detail. Latene and Darley (1970) put forward a five-stage model called the decision model to example why bystanders at emergencies sometimes do and sometimes do not offer help.
In stage one the bystander must first notice the event, in stage two they must interpret the event as an emergency (perhaps looking at the behaviour of others on order to achieve this), in stage 3 they must accept some personal responsibility to intervene (the person may avoid taking responsibility by assuming that others will i. e. diffusion of responsibility), in stage 4 they must consider what is the best form of intervention, and finally in stage 5 they must implement their decision. At each stage of this model, observers may make a decision that inhibits helping.
For example, when observing others who are not helping, they may dismiss the situation as not being an emergency (stage 2), they may feel that the presence of others makes their intervention unnecessary (stage 3), they may decide that they lack the necessary skills for effective intervention (stage 4) or they may decide that it is against their interests (e. g. it may be dangerous) to intervene (stage 5). Latene and Darley identified two psychological processes to explain the social inhibition effect (i. e. not helping). The first of these is diffusion of responsibility.
If one person is present at an emergency, they have 100% responsibility to help. However, if an emergency is witnessed by more than one person, the less the personal responsibility there is for any one individual bystander. This diffusion of responsibility explains the inhibition of helping behaviour in stage 3. The second process identified is pluralistic ignorance, which focuses on what happens when we look to other bystanders in order to decide whether help in necessary. If others are not helping, we may conclude that it is not an emergency so do nothing.
Real emergencies may fail to bring about help because bystanders inhibit each others behaviour. This pluralistic ignorance explains the inhibition of helping behaviour in stage 2. Evidence that supports the Decision Model In support for the decision model, the predicted behaviours are supported by research studies. Support for Stage 1 of the Decision Model: Darley and Batson (1973) showed that students who were rushing to a lecture were less likely to help a man moaning and many said it was because they had not noticed. Support for Stage 2 of the Decision Model:
Darley et al (1973) found that bystanders who stood face to face with other bystanders were more likely to help in an emergency than those who stood back to back. They concluded that the effects of pluralistic ignorance were stronger when in the back to back condition as bystanders were unable to see each others facial expressions, so were deprived of important interpretative cues. This therefore supports the idea of pluralistic ignorance, as it shows that we look to other bystanders in order to decide whether help is necessary or not in an emergency situation.
Support for Stage 3 of the Decision Model: Darley and Latene (1968) carried out a study in which students in separate rooms discussed personal problems via and intercom. Participants were led to believe they were either alone with another participant or part of a group (although only one real participant was involved, other contributions were tape recordings). During the discussion, one of the participants stimulated an epileptic attack. The dependant variable was whether and how quickly participants reported the incident to the experimenter.
The findings showed that help was less likely and slower when participants believed that there was other potential helpers present, whereas all responded if they believed they were on their own. This therefore supports the idea of diffusion of responsibility, as it shows that as the number of bystanders increases, so does the time taken to respond to an emergency and the probability that help will be given decreases However, a major limitation of this study is that it lacks ecological validity as the study was a laboratory experiment, therefore the study may not demonstrate how people would react in a realist situation.
Support for Stage 4 of the Decision Model: Huston et al (1981) studied the characteristics of bystanders who helped out in dangerous emergencies. Their findings showed that there was a strong tendency for helpers to have training in relevant skills such as lifesaving, first aid or self defence. Thus, this supports stage four of the decision model, as it shows that bystanders who have relevant skills or expertise are most likely to offer help to a victim. A further strength of the decision model is that it assumes that there are several different reasons why bystanders do not lend assistance.
The experimental evidence discussed above provides substantial support for this assumption. Lastly, the decision model gives a valid explanation of why bystanders sometimes fail to help. If bystanders produce a ‘no’ at any point in the decision model, then help will not be forthcoming. Criticisms of the Decision Model On the negative side, the model assumes that we think about our behaviour in a rational way, whereas many people act impulsively when they see someone in distress. Another limitation of the model is that it gives no detail of the processes involved in making these decisions.
For example, it seems reasonable to assume that bystanders who interpret the situation as an emergency and who also accept personal responsibility would nearly always lend assistance to the victim. We need to known more about the processes involved when ‘yes’ decisions at steps 1,2 and 3 are followed by a ‘no’ decision at steps 4 or 5. Arousal/Cost-Reward Model Piliavin et al (1981) put forward the arousal-cost reward model to explain why people do and do not help in emergency situations. They argued that when people come across someone in need, they work their way through five stages before they respond or walk away.
The first requirement is for the bystander to experience physiological arousal. When we see someone in distress, we become physiologically aroused. The arousal is so we are motivated to reduce it. The greater the arousal the more likely it is that a bystander will help.
Physiological arousal does not automatically produce specific emotions. Seeing someone else in distress brings forth either personal distress or empathetic concern. Piliavin et al believed that physiological arousal is more likely to be labelled personal distress because the bystander is feeling aroused and this is interpreted as anxiety i. e. distress. When people are in a state of personal distress, they are motivated to do something about it, but first costs and benefits must be calculated.
The costs of helping may include effort (e. g. helping may be demanding), time (e. g. helping may make us late) and risk of harm (e. g. we may get hurt) All these factors are weighed against the benefits of helping, such as social approval (e. g. thanks from the victim), self-esteem (e. g. feeling that one is a good person) and relief from a negative emotional state (e. g. reducing unpleasant arousal)
In addition to these factors, the costs of not helping may also be assessed. These may include disapproval (e. g. negative reactions from others), damaged self-esteem (feeling that one is not a good person) and negative emotional response (e. g. not helping may cause feelings of guilt). Evidence that supports the Arousal/Cost-Reward Model Piliavan et al’s (1969) Subway Samaritan study provides support for his proposed arousal/cost-reward model. Piliavan et al staged incidents in the New York subway, with a male victim staggering forwards and collapsing on the floor.
He either appeared blind carrying a black cane and seemed sober, or he smelled of alcohol and carried a bottle of alcohol. Observers then recorded how may passengers offered to help. They found that bystanders were much less likely to help when the victim appeared drunk then when he appeared blind. This suggests that the drunk is helped less often because the perceived cost is greater (helping a drunk is likely to cause disgust, embarrassment or harm) The cost of not helping is less because nobody will blame another for not helping a drunk because he is perceived as partly responsible for his own victimization.
These findings therefore fit in with Piliavin’s proposed arousal/cost-reward model. The model provides a more complete account than the decision model of the processes involved in determining whether or not to provide help. Evidence that criticizes the Arousal/Cost-Reward Model On the negative side, it is implied by the arousal/cost reward model that bystanders spend some time considering all the elements in the situation and other demands on their time before deciding what to do. In fact, people faced by a sudden emergency often respond impulsively and with very little thought.
Even if bystanders do consider the relevant rewards and costs, it is perhaps unlikely that they consider all of them. Another problem with this model is that it is not always the case that a bystander needs to experience arousal before helping in an emergency. Someone with much experience of emergencies (such as a doctor responding to someone having a heart attack) may respond efficiently without becoming aroused. Overall Evaluation In evaluation, both theories provide a significant importance to understanding bystander behaviour.
Both theories have their pros and cons and both explain why bystanders may choose to help or ignore a victim in an emergency situation. Therefore both theories may be important contributors in explaining this specific behaviour. There are however differences. Most importantly the arousal component of the arousal cost-reward model which makes this the motivating factor of helping behaviour. In the decision model, beahaviour is motivated recognition of an emergency and knowledge that help is the appropriate response. Cultural Differences in Pro-social behaviour
Most of the research carried out into pro-social behaviour was conducted in the United States. It is dangerous to assume that what is true in one culture is true in other cultures, and this danger is perhaps especially great with respect to altruism (an example of pro-social behaviour) Individualism and Collectivism It’s claimed that western cultures, such as the US and UK are individualistic cultures as the stress the need for independence rather than on the reliance of others (they emphasise ‘I’ rather than ‘we’).
In contrast, its argued non-western cultures such as Japan and Isreal are collectivist cultures, where individuals share tasks, belongings and income (they emphasise ‘we’ rather than ‘I’). Research Evidence Evidence that the individualistic approach is not dominant in all cultures is reported by Whiting and Whiting (1975). They measured altruism in six different countries and found that 100% of Kenyan children behaved altruistically compared with 8% of American children. The others (India, Japan, Philippines and Mexico) were in-between the two extremes.
This shows that there are significant cross-cultural differences in pro-social behaviour. Further evidence which supports the claim (i. e. that individualistic cultures stress the need for independence whereas collectivist cultures stress the need for interdependence) has been reported by Nadler (1986, 1993). He compared people in Israel brought up communally (on a kibbutz community dedicated to interdependent living) with those raised in a city. He found the Kibbutz were more likely to help and seek help in comparison to people in the city.
This suggests that ‘collectivism’ leads to greater helping. This is supported by Moghaddam et al (1993) who conducted research with Kibbutzim children and found that they are more co-operative and helpful than their American and European peers. Moreover, Mann (1980) confirms these findings by indicating that Australian collectivist societies all demonstrate more definite patterns of pro-social behaviour that western individualistic societies. Lastly, Tower et al (1997) compared British (individualistic) and Russian (collectivist) students.
They found the British students tended to share resources in a way that benefited them, whereas Russians shared more in a way that benefited others. This further confirms the differences in pro-social behaviour in individualistic and collectivist societies. However, there are some limitations in reference to this research. Firstly, studies carried out using comparative research in two different cultures cause’s problems as psychologists tend to use research methodologies imposed in one culture to measure behaviour in another culture ( an imposed etic).
These may have different meanings in the second culture, and lead them to draw unjustifiable conclusions about people from that culture. Secondly, the meaning of helping behaviour is a crucial concept and research studies ignore the fact that this varies across cultures. Lastly, much of the research carried out on human helping behaviour in the West takes place in laboratories, whereas much of the research in non-Western cultures is field research. Laboratory studies lack the social context of helping therefore the studies suffer from low ecological validity meaning the findings may not apply to real life pro-social behaviour.
Also, laboratory studies suffer from high demand characteristics because participants try to behave as they have been socialized to do so (as individuals) because they realize they are being watched and evaluated. On the other hand, field experiments are more difficult to control therefore confounding variables may be more likely to arise. Urban-rural differences Differences in pro-social behaviour may also exist due to urban-rural differences. Research Evidence Korte et al (1981) investigated differences in helping behaviour in two Turkish cities and four small Turkish towns.
Helpfulness was assessed through a variety of methods, such as the willingness to change money or participate in a short interview. They found helpfulness was higher for people in the small towns than for those in large cities. This evidence therefore supports the view that urban-rural differences can cause differences in pro-social behaviour. Milgram (1970) proposed the Information overload theory. This suggested that people in urban environments (such as large cities) are so familiar with emergency situations that they treat them as everyday occurrences.
This explains why they are less likely to attract interest and so people are less likely to help. Evaluation Korte et al’s (1981) study has been criticised as it is limited to Turkey. However, Steblay (1987) conducted a meta-analysis of 65 comparisons between rural and urban populations taken from all over the world. They found that regardless of the type of help required (non-serious – serious) more help was offered in rural than urban areas. This confirms Korte et al’s findings. The studies support later research which suggests that population density is a better predictor of helping than population size.
Latene and Darley (1970) have suggested that this is due to Diffusion of responsibility. They claimed that higher populations create a greater diffusion of responsibility, therefore leading to less individual responsibility for helping. Increased population density has also been shown to lead to increases in aggressive behaviour. Milgrams information overload theory only provides one explanation for urban-rural differences, there has been evidence that shows there are others. Such as, urban societies are more competitive and industrialised.
Overall Evaluation Overall, cultures create the context in which pro-social behaviour is learned and performed. It is therefore vital to understand the cultural perspective of why some people help more than others and why some situations are likely to obtain help whereas others reduce it. Pro-social behaviour may be helpful, but it is also important in the development and continuation of social relationships, which is an essential message from the study of cultural differences. c) Media Influences on Pro- and Anti-social behaviour
Use for: a) Outline 2 or more explanations of media influences on anti-social behaviour (12 marks) b) To what extent do research studies support the view that the media are responsible for anti-social behaviour (12 marks) a) Outline and evaluate one or more studies relating to media influences on pro-social behaviour (12 marks) b) Outline and evaluate one or more studies relating to media influences on anti-social behaviour (12 marks) The term media refers to any medium of communication.
Most research in this area is focused upon two types of media; television and films. Media Influences on Pro-social behaviour According to some researchers media can be positive and lead to pro-social behaviour. Explanations Social Learning theory Bandura’s (1965) Social learning theory can explain the relationship between Pro-social and media and behaviour. The theory claims that we learn ways of behaving through observing and imitating those behaviours that are likely to bring a reward.
As a result, they are more likely to be associated with reinforcement and so the child is motivated to repeat them. Imitation is also more likely if the observer identifies with the character on television e. g. similar in terms of age or gender or because they are admired. This explanation is supported by Sprafkin et al (1975) who studied 6 year old children which were placed in three different conditions. In condition 1 children watched an episode of Lassie in which a boy was seen risking his life in order to save a puppy.
In condition 2 children saw a different episode from Lassie in which no helping was involved. In condition 3 the children watched an episode of a comedy programme. After watching the programmes, the children were then given the chance to help some distressed puppies. However, to do so they had to stop playing a game in which they could have won a prize. The findings showed that those children who had watched the rescue scene spent an average of over 90 seconds helping the puppies, compared with less than 50 seconds by the children who watched the other TV programmes.
This shows that the children imitated specific acts they had seen. However, this study can be criticised as it suffers from low ecological validity as the method used was a laboratory experiment. Therefore the same findings may not apply to the outside world. Anti-Stereotypes Some television programme use counter stereotypes to break down existing stereotypes, this may also be pro-social. This is supported by Johnston and Ettema (1982).
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 9 September 2017
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