Contrast two theories explaining altruism in humans

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  • Contrast Two Theories Explaining Altruism
    • Kin Selection Theory
      • Strengths
        • Supported by empirical Studies - shows preference for helping blood relatives (organ donation)
        • Mathematical computer simulations demonstrate that kin selection is one possiblie selection process in evolution/reciprocity
      • Limitation
        • Can't Explain why we help individuals who are not related to us
        • Human kinship is not based only upon blood.  Shared development and social bonding play large parts in kinship
      • Simmons et al (1977)
        • A: Are close relatives more likely to be kidney donors?
          • The results showed that 86% of parents said yes but only 47% of the siblings who could be donors agreed to donate a kidney to their relative when asked. The theory predicts that both should agree so the difference in agreement to make this sacrifice cannot be explained in terms of kin alone.
    • The Empathy alturism theory   (Batson1981)
      • Strengths
        • Supported by many experimental studies
        • Can to some extent predict under which conditions were are more likely to act altruistically.
      • Limitations
        • Difficult to generalize experiments into real life situations (low eco validity)
        • Not possible to determine if altruistic behavior is a result of empathy or a motivation to escape our own negative emotions
      • The empathy-altruism theory posits that some helpful actions are truly altruistic because they are motivated by the genuine desire to increase another’s welfare. Batson’s understanding of altruism is that it is the helper’s motives that determine whether a behavior is altruistic or not.
      • According to Batson the perception of a situation and the emotion that follows determines whether an individual will help or not. Altruism can only happen if another person’s perspective is taken.
      • According to Batson (1991) three factors facilitate perspective taking:1.    the observer has had similar experiences2.    the observer is attached to the victim3.    the person is instructed to imagine what it is like to be in the victim’s position.
      • Batson et al (1981).
        • Investigate if students would take a P's place based on how easy it was to leave the situation
          • High empathy condition: Most participants agreed to help Elaine. It did not matter much whether it was easy or difficult to escape. Low empathy condition: Most participants withdrew in the easy escape condition. When it was difficult some preferred to offer help.


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