Social Norms

Psychology of Human Relationships
To what extent do biological, cognitive, and
sociocultural factors influence human relationships?
Evaluate psychological research (that is, theories and/or
studies) relevant to the study of human relationships
Psychology of Human Relationships
• investigates the nature and causes of
relationships between people.
– Attraction
– Friendship
– Romantic relationships
– Relationship termination
– Altruism
– Anti-social behaviour
– Violence
Methods used:
– Experiments
– Interviews
– Questionnaires
• Why qualities make these most useful?
Social Responsibility
• Outcomes
– Distinguish between altruism and prosocial
– Contrast two theories explaining altruism in
– Using one or more research studies, explain crosscultural differences in prosocial behaviour
– Examine factors influencing bystanderism
Prosocial behaviour and altruism
• Prosocial behaviour – any behaviour intended to benefit others
– Variants of helping behaviour – volunteering, donations, rescuing
– Also – factors influencing NOT helping
• Egotistic motivation – prosocial behaviour that benefits the actor
intrinsically – makes them feel good
• Altruism – performance of prosocial actions without expectation of
– Is it possible to derive some level of benefit on any level for prosocial
– Psychological hedonism – the idea that the ultimate goal of all
behaviour is seeking pleasure and avoidance of pain
• Altruistic motivation – performance of prosocial actions with the
expectation of benefit to others and of a potential cost to the self
• Baston (1991) – altruism – a motivational state with the ultimate
goal of increasing another’s welfare
Empathy-altruism hypothesis - Baston
• Empathy - An emotional response generated
when another person is perceived to be in
• This emotional response becomes the
motivation to help for another’s sake
• Need – when another person’s current state is
recognized as less than their potential state
• Assumes that the observer has the ability to
perceive both states in another
Evaluation follows of potential rewards
and costs
• Recognition of potential rewards
• Recognition of personal distress that would be
reduced if a helping act takes place
• OR
• The observer adopts the perspective of the
person in need – empathic response
The strength of the empathy is
affected by:
• the perception of the magnitude of the need
• the strength of the observer’s attachment to
the person in need.
• Empathic response lacks personal distress –
reduction of this would constitute egotistic
• Testing hypothesis is difficult – impossible to
observe the motivation of the actors and
motivation may be unknown even to them
Toi and Baston (1982)
• Aim – to determine the effects of emotional focus or
informational focus on empathy in observers
• Method – female psychology students viewed an interview
with a confederate fellow student who had recently broken
both legs. Participants were told to focus on how the victim
felt in her interview and others were told to focus on the
facts of the story. Participants were also informed that the
subject of the interviews may be attending class with them
in the future. They were then asked to take notes for the
subject for upcoming classes.
• Conclusions – participants told to focus on the emotions of
the subject were more likely to respond with note taking.
This factor was shown to be more important than the
presence of the subject in the class at a later date
Kin-selection hypothesis
• Evolutionary explanation for altruism
• Helping others in your family group will increase
the chances of the gene that caused the helping
behaviour to be passed on.
Sime (1983) – unrelated individuals would flee a
burning building and get separated, related
individuals would stay together and flee as a unit.
Simpson and Kendrick (1997) – kin selection results
from ingroup bias effects –we are more likely to
help people we perceive as similar to us
Madsen et al. (2007)
• Aim – to determine the effect of perceived
relation proximity on altruistic behaviour
• Method – participants were asked to assume a
painful position for which money would be paid
to a relative for the duration of their tolerance.
The study was repeated for UK students and
South African students
• Conclusion - participants made more of an effort
to tolerate the position for relatives that were
biologically closer to them.
Cross-cultural factors
• Levine (2001)
• Studied prosocial behaviour in several cities
worldwide according to several variables such as
population size, and individualism/collectivism
and by using observations of helping situations in
these cities.
• Cities were ranked - top Rio de Janeiro, last Kuala
• Cultural factors – less important but there was a
relationship between high purchasing power and
low helping behaviours
Cultural factors - altruism
• Individualism vs collectivism – Collectivist societies help
slightly more
– Defined borders between social groups in collectivist
societies - Ingroup vs outgroup favoritism?
– Collectivist members less likely to help a complete stranger
• Behaviours transmitted during child-rearing – eg chores
(Whiting and Whiting , 1975)
• Frequency of anticipated contacts – population size
• Competition for resources –perception of scarcity
• Social norms surrounding need and reception of charity
Bystander Intervention
• Bystanderism – the phenomenon of a person or
people not intervening despite the awareness of
another person’s need.
• Latane and Darley (1970)
• Number of bystanders is inversely proportional to
the likelihood someone will intervene
– People must notice event
– People must assess need in event
– People must assume responsibility with knowledge of
positive effect of intervention
Latane and Darley (1968)
• Aims – to determine the impact of observer number on the inhibition to
intervene in a helping situation
• Method – 72 participants deceived that they were taking part in a study
looking at the personal problems of other students. Participants were
isolated and given earphone and a microphone and told that the others
were participating aw well but the researcher could not hear anyone.
They would listen to a recording of a person’s problems and comment in
turns on these. In reality, they were the only ones who could hear the
recordings and respond. One of the recorded respondents would ask for
help and indicate a seizure was in progress then fall silent. The time taken
to forgo the experiment and notify the experimenter of the distress of the
respondent was measured. The number of people the participant believed
to be also hearing the respondent was the independent variable.
• Conclusions – the number of people believed to be observing the seizure
was important. 85% of people who thought they were alone acted within
2 minutes. 31% if they thought they were with a group of 4, 100% within 6
minutes – alone, 62% - with 4 others
• Validity and reliability?
Bystander effects
• Diffusion of responsibility – with more
witnesses, the responsibility to act is shared
and overall obligation drops
• Social influence – in ambiguous situations we
look to others for guidance in action taking
• Audience inhibition – inaction from fear of
overreacting or committing social blunders
Factors affecting bystanderism
Crowd size
Arousal, cost-reward
Similarity, victim attributes
Arousal, Cost, Reward – Piliavin et al.
• Arousal – we experience the fight or flight response in
observing an emergency. The then desire to act in a way
that returns us to a normal state – the higher the arousal,
the more likely we are to act. (Amato (1986)
• However, if aroused in a state of ambiguity, we are less
likely to act as we will be unsure if acting will reduce the
arousal. Sterling and Gartner (1983)
• Cost-Reward
• Cost-reward model – an evaluation of the consequences of
– Cost of intervening – time, effort, danger
– Cost of NOT intervening – guilt, social criticism
• When the cost of NOT outweigh the cost – action is likely
Similarity, victim attributes and responsibility
Piliavin (1981) – people are more likely to help people similar to them – race,
gender, age, nationality
Piliavin et al. (1969)
Aims – to test the effect of race and victim type on helping behaviour on a New
York subway.
Method – Field experiment – staged emergencies between the same two stop on a
subway carriage. Tow observers, one model who would help after a specified
amount of time, and one victim confederate of varying race and character – either
an old man with a cane or a drunk.
Conclusions – spontaneous help - cane; 62 of 65 times, drunk; 19 of 38 times.
Helpers were 90% males, 64% white – same as proportion on the train.
Victims who are sick are helped more than those who are drunk – responsible for
own situation
In mixed groups, men more likely to help men, same race more likely to help same
Diffusion of responsibility not observed in the cane situation.
These results can also be extended to political affiliation at a protest (Suedfeld et
al. , 1972) or sport affiliation with victims wearing the same shirt of the observer’s
favorite soccer team (Levine et al. 2006) but these were not observed with gender
interactions – men more likely to help women especially after viewing erotic films
(Przybyla, 1985)
• Berkowitz (1987) – efforts of helping strangers
was reduced when participants had higher
• Self-awareness – a byproduct of being in a bad
mood, self-focused
• In a good mood – we are more likely to be
attracted to strangers and pay attention to
positive features
Competence and experience
• Huston et al. (1981) – interviewed 32 people
who had intervened in criminal acts – those
who acted were taller, heavier, morelikely
trained as a police officer or EMT, carried selfbelief of being ethical and principled
• Pantin and Carver (1982) – showed a first aid
training video to female participants – showed
increased willingness to intervene for a
choking victim
Interpersonal relations
• Examine biological, psychological and social
origins of attraction
• Discuss the role of communication in
maintaining relationships
• Explain the role that culture plays in the
formation and maintenance of relationships
• Analyze why relationships may change or end
• Evaluate sociocultural explanations of the
origins of violence
• Discuss the effects of short-term and longterm exposure to violence
• Discuss the relative effectiveness of two
strategies for reducing violence

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