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Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis

 

Explanations > Theories > Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis

Description | Research | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

If we feel empathy towards a person who needs help, we are likely to help them (in proportion to the empathy felt) without any selfish thoughts. Otherwise, we will help them only if the rewards of helping them outweigh the costs.

Rewards of helping can be many and various, including relief from the distress of seeing another in trouble. This means separating true altruism from selfish concerns can be very difficult.

Beggars live totally off empathy and can be expert at putting themselves in situations to increase this, such as using children and animals.

Research

Toi and Batson (1972) played a ‘radio station interview’ to students about a disabled person who needed help. Afterwards they received an anonymous request for help. When instructed before the experiment to be objective about what they heard, the students were much less likely to offer help than when they had been asked to focus on how the person might be feeling.

Example

So what?

Using it

Find empathetic people or create an empathetic situation before you ask for help.

See also

Attachment Style, Ben Franklin Effect, Buffer effect of Social Support, Prosocial Behavior

References

Toi and Batson (1972), Batson (1991)

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