Investigating Individual Helping Behaviour: A Research Proposal

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The Arousal Reduction Model (Piliavin & Piliavin) says that emergency situations are arousals. After such arousals people tend to work on the reduction of the arousal since it is unpleasant. Bystanders would react in four different ways. These include direct intervention, indirect intervention, leaving with no intervention and staying at the scene with no intervention. Helping depends on the cost to the helper and what they will gain from the action.

For some, they help because it is often rewarding this according to the reciprocal altruism theory. Direct intervention involves participating actively in helping the person in his problem. Indirect intervention means that the bystander looks for someone else to help the person in need. Leaving with no intervention means that the person who noticed a person needing help ignores him. Meanwhile, staying with no intervention means not doing anything at all while still at the scene of incident.

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The truth that individuals facilitate one another has long been recognised, but the question of why individuals keep in such altruism, either straight or during organisations, has confused philosophers and economists since remains (Wispe, 1978). Whilst it appears that individuals do have a strong drive to help others, consumer behaviourists have long recognised that drive is translated into behaviour only after the person has completed a decision procedure that guides to that behaviour. The scopes that may improve or restrain an individual’s development during the phases in the helping decision procedure can be divided into two main sectors: Internal factors (descriptions of the individual) and external factors (descriptions of the condition).

Internal Factors:

  • Demographics. More affluent people give more, other than it is interesting that the poor and the wealthy come into view to be willing to give advanced proportions of takings to altruistic causes than do those in middle-income cohorts.
  • Personality Variables. At the same time as it might be helpful to recognise a giving personality style, few studies have been capable to set up an important relationship among personality style and helping performance (Penrod, 1983).
  • Social Status. Individuals betrothed in the professions are inclined to become more involved in altruistic causes than do those who hold occupations of less position (Amato, 1985).
  • Mood. Individuals in a good mood tend to show off a strong predisposition to help others (Penrod, 1983), but people who are in a bad mood that helping others will alleviate that bad mood tends to brusquely improve giving behaviour (Shaffer and Smith, 1985). Individuals in an unbiased mood tend to help the slightest, but if actions are taken to put these people in a good mood, giving amplifies (Cialdini et. al., 1982).
  • Knowledge, Ability, Resources. People help simply when they think they can, and this thinking is over and over again based on how they observe their own facts, skill, and resources in terms of applicability to the predicament, relative profusion, and relationship to the capabilities of others (Margolis, 1982).
  • Previous Experience.  An individual’s preceding occurrence with an altruistic grounds organisation may develop or get in the way future helping behaviour.

External Factors.

  • Nature of the Appeal.  An individual is more to be expected to help when the circumstances is interpreted as having both importance and propinquity and as a consequence requiring some action at this instant. In the same way, individuals are more possible to help when they are literally confronting each other with the circumstances or the person requesting help (Lindskold et al., 1977).
  • Other People Involved.  Possibly the strongest external pressure on helping behaviour is the nature of the other people in the helping circumstances (Latane and Nida, 1981). The quantity to which an individual will be helped may depend to a great degree on the extent to which the individual can be held responsible for his or her own dilemma.
  • Availability of Alternate Courses of Action. Individuals will help no more than when they are aware of experienced and capable to do so and if they feel their actions will without a doubt help.
  • Environmental Factors. Helping behaviour will take place only if the individual is stimulated adequately to prevail over obstructions presented by time, space, climate, or objective impediment, or if these obstructions are removed or satisfactorily reduced.

So where is altruistic behavior more observable? In a library or in a mall? For a person to help someone, he should be able to notice that person’s need to be helped. My research will be using well-dressed and shabbily-dressed subjects that will deliberately drop off books they are carrying in two very different locations. This is to investigate on the effect of the setting to the altruistic behavior of the onlookers. An analysis of the facial expressions of the subjects when they notice the actor needing help and when help is given or not will be carefully looked into. The length of time between the stimulus and the reaction will also be timed. A situation wherein help is solicited will also be experimented on. Therefore, my research will be answering the following questions:

  1. Who do people help? What factors contribute to the helping behavior of an onlooker?
  2. What effects does stylishness have on altruistic behavior?
  3. What effects do different settings have on the want to help?
  4. What does the facial expression tell about the helping behavior of the subjects?

So who do we usually help? A study in a school campus involving black and white students showed that the whites are equally helpful to both the black and the white whereas the black almost always helped “victims” of the same color (Wegner & Crano, 1975). This is because the place is dominated by the white. Helping in this situation could be for self gain; the helper anticipates the helpee’s assistance in the future if time turns the table. Race and sex have its effects to the situation. My research will be observing 10 males and 10 females regardless of color so that the effect of gender to the helping behavior will be looked into.

Factors Affecting Bystanders in Helping

The major outcome on the part of other people seems to come from the detached bystander. They are the individuals who are there but do not need or ask help. There are suggestions that individuals rely stoutly on the reactions of these other people to help them understand the condition. If other people act in a way that specifies there is no need for help or no action is required, the individual is possible to do the same. Conceivably more significant than the sign received from other bystanders is just the number of people present when a need circumstances occurs.

Altruistic behavior will only be possible if the bystanders “have nothing better to do” (McKendry). In other words, the actor will be helped if he is noticed because the bystanders are not in a hurry or are not preoccupied. He will also be helped if bystanders notice that he is in an emergency situation; if they see that other bystanders offer help; if they share common traits (something like clothing style) with the helpee; if they are in a small place; if they feel guilty or distressed; if they are happy or if they see that the helpee is deserving of their help (Darley & Latane).

In an experiment involving students of Princeton Theological Seminary, Darley & Batson asked students to videotape speech about the Good Samaritan or speech about professions or jobs where seminary students will be more effective. After a few minutes, the students were asked to go to a video taping facility which is in another building and can be reached by passing through an alley. Some of the students were told that they have plenty of time to go there. On the other hand, other students were told that they are already late. This was done while the experimenter was looking at his watch. The effect to the individual helping behavior of the students was tremendous.

The experimenter assigned a point to the student who will notice that the well-dressed man who was slumped posing as a “victim” in the alley needs help but did not. He gave two points to the students who notice that the victim needs help but just informs the assistant of the next building. Five points were given to the students who never left the “victim” until he was “safe.” Some of those who were told they were already late tended not to help or notice the “victim” even if their assignment is a videotape about the Good Samaritan.

Those who were told they could go to the video taping facility without hurrying helped more. This experiment bears importance with my research. If in a mall, the bystander is just strolling leisurely or just enjoying the day, he is more likely to be helping my actor. However, if the bystander is late for an important appointment or is eager to finish shopping early, he might not notice that my actor needs help no matter how well-dressed he may be. Individual helping behavior is also inspired if onlookers determine that the helpee is in an emergency situation or if the situation is appropriate for help. The “mind-your-own-business” situation could be an example of an inappropriate situation for helping.

In this study, the actor dropping off books is hardly an emergency situation to a mother who is in a hurry to go through her long list of grocery needs or to a person who is hastily heading to an engagement. Help is given less if the situation may be ambiguous to the helper or if the onlookers have a difficult time if the situation isn’t appropriate for doling out help (Saks & Saxe). Another factor that would contribute to the altruistic behavior of the passersby is if they are in a small area or place. A busy or overcrowded place usually doesn’t make it noticeable that the actor needs help. A high noise level is a hindrance for prosocial behavior to show. Also according to studies, bystanders help less if there’s an audience. This is because of people’s fear of making themselves appear foolish. This research will look into the effect of the mall and the library to the individual helping behavior of subjects.

How different are the reactions of those who are in the mall to those who are in the library? During this investigation, the bystander effect will be regarded according to previous researches. Bystander effect is when help is less likely to be given because of numerous people who are present in the incident. Will people be more helpful in a mall where there are more audiences or in a library where the number of onlookers are fewer? The actor will only be helped if one or some of the onlookers feel responsible in the circumstances. On the Kitty Genovese case, 38 bystanders didn’t react prosocially to a three stab attack in Queens, New York which lasted for half an hour in 1964(McKendry).

The killer stalked and tried stabbing Kitty Genovese from 3:30 am but the incident was reported to the police at 3:50 am after she already died. Neighbors heard quite well that Kitty was screaming and crying for help and even saying that she had been stabbed but one of them dismissed it as a “lover’s fight” . Another is an incident involving a man named Andrew Mormilleis who was attacked in a New York subway train.

Eleven onlookers hid in another car and did not try to help Mormilleis even if the attacker had already left. Mormilleis bled to death. This situation shows that empathy to a victim decreases if more people share the responsibility of helping. There are exemptions such as in the World Trade Center destruction in September 11, 2001. James Berger, a senior vice president at AON Consulting Group, died while helping co-workers escape into the two elevators. He got killed in the end.

Not helping victims isn’t always a sign of apathy but might be of conflict over what to do and interference of emotional distress on immediate actions. It could also mean that they had assumptions like husband-wife assumptions or family assumptions. Norms tell us that kinfolks don’t hurt each other and are not threats to each other’s welfare. Pluralistic ignorance also enters into these types of situation. It follows that nothing’s the matter because no one is concerned or worried. Brain freeze also happens in emergency situations which hinder prospect helpers in extending help to the victims.

Generally, a happy person helps more because of the good mood they are in. This is due to the fact that a person in a good mood sees everything in a sympathetic way. Unfortunately, if helping the victim will lessen or threaten that mood, help will less likely to come. A guilty person is also more likely to help in this situation because he wants this unpleasant feeling to be alleviated. The last factor tells us that people help if they deem the helpee deserving of the help. Therefore in my investigation, I will make the actor carry other things besides the book he will be dropping off.

Stylishness and Its Power Towards Altruism

Clothes contribute to the well-being of a person. It is also perceived as a factor that is a telltale of the quality of life a person has. One’s attitude, views, beliefs, image and personality is shown through his clothes. Research shows that people react with more empathy to people who share common interests with them. People perceive those who have the same styles with them as persons they can relate to. My actor would be well-dressed and shabbily-dressed alternately.

If we will base on researches, people who share the same impeccable styles with the well-dressed actor will have more empathy on him and will help him readily. Likewise, groups who claim similar styles with the shabbily-dressed actor will be more empathic with him. Stereotyping is usually at work in this situation. People who are well-dressed attract more attention from both men and women. Rugged clothes tell an onlooker that the person wearing it is unattractive because of his quality of life shown through his clothes.

Do I Look Like I Want to Help?

The human face is the window to the emotions within. It shows a glimpse of what is happening inside and what would likely happen after an expression. It is the focus of every cultural expression. Critics, however, have crossed out facial expressions as messengers of a person’s true feelings (Azar). A study in the 1960’s by Paul Ekman, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco and Carroll Izard, PhD, of the University of Delaware based analysis of human emotions on the facial expressions. Nevertheless, Joseph Campos, PhD of the University of California a Berkeley says that facial expressions as well as postures and body language predicts what a person will do next. While we were taught not to judge a book by its cover, we were also taught that moral health is judged physically.

The facial expressions that I will be observing on are smiling, frowning and neutral. Does a smiling face signal that the bystander will help or just watch what will happen next? Smiling doesn’t always mean that the person will eventually help my actor. For women it could mean they don’t know what to do in that given situation. Frowning, on the other hand, don’t mean that the subject wouldn’t help my actor. It could mean that the bystander is preoccupied or just not in the mood to smile. Neutral expressions don’t have to mean apathy in the bystander. What is the significance of these expressions as insights to the helping behavior of the subjects? Blink rate alone could tell whether the subject is at ease or nervous with the situation. Maintaining eye contact shows interest in what’s happening and thus could lead to helping the actor.

The evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin wrote The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals where he wrote that facial expressions are universal not culture-specific. Therefore, facial expressions will be the same even if the subjects vary racially. Their faces would reveal what their next moves would be in the situation that my actor will create. I choose the three aforementioned expressions because they are the same no matter what culture or gender the subjects are. Also, expressions are involuntary and almost always come right after a stimulus. Strong emotions lead to quick actions on the other party. Unless the subjects focused very much on not revealing any expressions, this proposal would be observable. Facial expressions could show altruistic behavior that consists of the following:

  • behavior that is helpful, fitness sacrificing, and altruistic
  • behavior that is helpful and fitness sacrificing, but selfish
  • behavior that is helpful, fitness advancing, and altruistic
  • behavior that is helpful, but fitness advancing and selfish
  • behavior that is unhelpful, but fitness sacrificing and altruistic
  • behavior that is unhelpful, fitness sacrificing, and selfish
  • behavior that is unhelpful and fitness advancing, but altruistic
  • behavior that is unhelpful, fitness advancing, and selfish.

On the three series of studies by Van Baaren, R. B., Holland, R. W., Kawakami, K., & Van Knippenberg(2004), empathy increases as mimicry of the victim’s facial expressions is done by the bystander. In their studies, pens were dropped to the floor and the facial expressions of the helper and the helpee was scrutinized. As mimicry happens, so does the empathy to the one needing help increases. When both share the same reaction to a situation, help is more likely to be given by the subjects. So in the course of my study, I will be observing for the effect of mimicry between the actor and the subjects.

In my investigation, I will also determine the difference in the reaction in the bystander if the actor will ask for help or will not. My actor has to make the situation as empathetic as possible so that he can ask for help. In a crowded place, help is harder to get because of the responsibility diffusion. Some who likes to help waits to be asked (Oliner & Oliner, 1988) to rescue then decides after that.

Though the understanding period triggers the procedure, the remainder of the procedure depends mostly upon how the individual interprets the condition in terms of the strength and importance of the need, the possible effects to the individual in need (and to the helper), the point to which the individual in need may be worth or deserve of help, and the behaviour of others who are also conscious of the condition. The aspiration to help and the skill to help are two completely different things.

An individual may distinguish the need of a child in the area who is suffering from a serious disease, and may sense a personal accountability for helping that child, but except that individual feels there is something he or she can do that will be effectual in helping the child, no help will be impending. If, on the other hand, the individual recognises helping actions that he or she feels capable or able to perform, then help is possible to be given. In order for this action to be completed, the individual must observe that (Amato, 1985) there is paths of action that the individual is capable to take and (Bartal and Raviv, 1982) this action will in fact help the individual in need.


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