Batson did one explanation into altruism with his empathy – altruism hypothesis. He stated altruistic behavior was a consequence of empathy. Empathy involved an emotional response that lies constant with someone else’s emotional state. He said this involved a number of different components, one being perspective taking, where this involves the ability to take the persons point of view. The second one being Empathic concern where you have compassion for the well being of the person. Finally personal distress where you’ve experienced a similar situation, but he said self orientated concerns, you’ll only try stopping the victim because of your emotional reaction and this is not altruism.
The second expiation can be shown from Ciadinis negative state model. He proposed when negative experiences are had, we are motivated to alleviate this buy helping others. This will give oneself a rewarded feeling and destroys the negative state. People learn that in childhood, when you help others it is known as a positive behavior and thus giving oneself a good feeling. So therefore this creates helping for an egotistic reasoning. According to the hypothesis, the first good that appears to be altruistic is simply just raising your own mood. If we were feeling bad then we want to help someone else to raise our own mood, not mattering if the emotions present before the opportunity arises or aroused but the situation itself.
If there’s an easier route however, then according to the negative state model, people will in fact take it. These models show some understanding of empathy, however there are limitations to these. The empathy – altruism model has an alternative explanation. Seeing as the research done with this model is only done with short-term helping and not anything to do with long term, which has been found in people. There may be demand characteristics that would explain the behavior by the participants and might not have anything to do with perspective taking or even empathy.
Another limitation for this is where Cialdini believed people do not help anyone else for their sake but actually help themselves to feel more at one with oneself. He said they see something of them in someone else and therefore said empathy associated isn’t helpless however we have the desire to help ourselves is ‘located’ in someone else. A limitation for the negative state model is the fact people who are in a good mood could want to help people to keep up their good mood and not let it go. Isen ; Levin did a study where participants either did or did not find 10 cents in a phone box and a confederate then dropped paper and they found 84% of people who found the money helped while only 4% of those who found no money helped. This shows the view that altruistic behavior has one function that is egoistic and only relieves a person’s negative mood.
The second limitation for this is the fact most research of this was carried in out fake settings, and not actually done in a real life setting. Also cultural differences could make a difference as away from the USA in a different country, interdependence could be seen as more of a norm therefore not looking less helpful in that particular region. Research into the empathy model showed maybe people help others because they wish to avoid disapproval form others surrounding who see them not helping. Batson said people who are high in empathic concern are more likely to help even if given a way out to escape the responsibility.
The empathy hypothesis had research done by Batson where he had female participants watch another (confederate) receive electric shocks. The participant was told either they were similar (high empathy) or very dissimilar (low empathy), this changed the emotional reactions. He also told half the participants they were free to go after 2 trials and the rest after 10. After 2 the confederate appeared distressed, and participants had a choice of either replacing her (empathetic concern) or leaving (personal concern). The participants who were free to leave after the second trial were more likely to replace her. In the ‘personal distress’ participants the only ones who took her place were the ones who had watched all 10 trials, while the participants in personal distress who were free to leave just left, using the easy way out.
The negative state relief model had Cialdini study into it and did a similar study to Batson and followed the same procedures except he gave the participants a ‘bonus’ reward of money and thought the high empathy participants would help none the less but found high and low empathy state participants had no difference. Maybe this was because their mood was raised because of the bonus, reducing the willingness to want to help. This study shows if participants experience a mood lift suddenly this affects our motivation to help others to increase the mood as its already been raised. All this research is good however if its not compared to real life situations, this could cause invalidity as its not dealing with real life events. Finally seeing the difference between the models is good to see if there is generally such a thing as selfless behavior, and actually measure the underlying motivation for any behavior observed.