Chapter Review


  • People help others out of selfish motives, including to reduce their felt distress and to gain social rewards such as praise, attention, or gratitude.
  • A form of pure, undiluted altruism is based on empathic concern—the feeling of concern for another person after observing and being moved by that person’s needs. Experimenters have found clever ways to distinguish between people who help for empathic and nonempathic reasons. Those who help for egoistic distress avoidance reasons show different physiological patterns than those who help for empathic reasons.
  • Empathic concern also motivates volunteerism, actions people take to enhance the welfare of others (for example, tending to the sick or dying when there is no expectation of compensation).
  • Situational determinants of altruism can be far stronger than our intuitions tell us they should be. Being late reduced the likelihood of a seminary student’s helping a victim from 60 percent to 10 percent.
  • Whether someone offers help to a victim or not (bystander intervention) also depends greatly on the number of people who observe the incident. The presence of others leads to a diffusion of responsibility, in which no individual takes responsibility for helping the victim.
  • Pluralistic ignorance occurs when people are uncertain about what is happening and do nothing, often out of fear of embarrassment in case nothing is really wrong. Their reaction reinforces everyone’s erroneous conclusion that the events are innocuous.
  • Victim characteristics that increase the likelihood of being helped include whether the victim is similar to the target, whether the victim screams and makes his or her distress known, and whether the victim is female.
  • People who live in rural settings are more likely to help others than people who live in urban settings.
  • People from lower-class backgrounds are more empathetic than people from upper-class backgrounds and are more likely to give resources to strangers and assist people in need.
  • Exposure to religious concepts increases levels of altruism.
  • Evolutionary approaches to altruism lead initially to a puzzle as to why it would exist at all. From the standpoint of evolution, all our actions should serve to increase the likelihood of survival and reproduction. The kin selection hypothesis explains, however, that people will help others to preserve the genes of close kin so as to benefit their own gene pool.
  • Another kind of helping behavior, reciprocal altruism, also arises out of selfish motives. People help others or grant favors in the belief that those whom they have helped will at some future time grant them favors of similar value.


  • Cooperation is part of our evolutionary heritage, and it is evident in almost all societies.
  • The prisoner’s dilemma game is used to study cooperation. It tempts participants to maximize their own outcomes at the expense of another person by defecting. This strategy backfires if the other person also defects. The optimum outcome is for both to settle for something less than the maximum by cooperating.
  • Interacting with more cooperative individuals leads to higher rates of cooperation.
  • Knowing a person’s reputation as cooperative or competitive influences levels of cooperation in profound ways.
  • Being primed with cooperative concepts leads to increased cooperation.
  • Cooperation is widespread in certain types of cultures, particularly in those whose members are dependent on one another to gather resources.
  • The tit-for-tat strategy in the prisoner’s dilemma game is a reciprocal strategy that is cooperative, nonenvious, nonexploitable, forgiving, and easy to read. This strategy helps maximize outcomes in potentially competitive situations that occur in real life.