An annotated collection of more than 5000 links to resources and ideas for the teaching of social psychology and related courses organized by topic

 

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Helping

 

Activities and Exercises

Examples

 

Multimedia Resources (audio, video)

Topic Resources

 

Class Assignments

Articles, Books, and Book Chapters

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Activities and Exercises

Bystander intervention

"Why we fail to empathize -- and what we can do about it"

"Attached is an article (http://jfmueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/crow/bystander.pdf) I show on a powerpoint slide. The copy is terrible, I don't even know how I got the file - and I can't take credit for the teaching lesson because it's likely I came across it in some other teaching resource. But the article describes Cornell students who stopped a fellow student from jumping off a bridge. In the article, they specifically identify their Intro Psych professor and learning about the bystander effect as motivation to intervene. I actually use this on the very last day of class - as a takeaway message that things they learn about in college (and my class) can have practical and important implications. Maybe the original article could be tracked down in the newspaper archives, if someone had access to Cornell resources . . . .

Just a general plug for the website Polleverywhere.com. Maybe you've already mention it - but if not, it's a free polling resource where you can set up questions ahead of time and then students just text in their answers (with a code). It's super easy to use, and you can collect something like 100 responses for free per poll. The students like it because it's anonymous and shows the responses in real time.

As an example, I use it for in my Intro class for prosocial and group processes section. First, I ask "If you could do anything humanly possible with complete assurance that you would not be detected or held responsible, what would you do?” and I tell them to write down their answer (on scrap paper is fine). Then, they code their answer into one of these categories: 1. Prosocial (Helping others, committing positive acts), 2. Antisocial (Criminal acts, hurting others), 3. Non-normative (violating social norms but not specifically helping or hurting others e.g., Sexual acts, spying) or 4. neutral (not fitting into other categories)
And then I use PollEverywhere for them to submit their category. Inevitably, the highest numbers come in for antisocial and non-normative acts. Reflects deindividuation, but also that prosocial is not the first thing that comes to mind for most of them. (I definitely cannot take credit for this exercise and I know I got it from another teaching resource - but again, don't know where. Terrible example of not properly citing sources!)" (from Nora Murphy) [added 2/2/15]

The Hunger Games and altruism - This activity uses a clip from the movie The Hunger Games. [added 1/29/15]

Activities associated with the PBS program The Human Spark - [added 1/29/15]


Altruism vs. Egoism

How many times have you given blood in your lifetime? ____ times

Note: Novice (0-3) or Expert (3+)

Place an asterisk (*) next to the most important reason why you donated blood.

A

___ service to community

___ to help humanity

___ sense of duty

E

___ it makes me feel good

___ to help friend or relative

___ persuaded by others

Ho: as experience with blood donation increases, motivation often changes from E to A

— experienced donors more motivated by altruism, while novice donors more motivated by egoism (Paulhus, 1977) (H/T George Schreer) [added 1/29/15]

Are humans more selfish or prosocial at heart? - another good Teaching Current Directions in Psychological Science activity from Myers and DeWall [added 1/29/15]

Using Current Directions in Psychological Science - two more excellent sets of ideas from subscriber Dave Myers and Nathan DeWall for using a couple recent Current Directions articles in class [added 1/2/14]

Take the hero challenge - From Robert Cialdini's Inside Influence site, this online activity takes you through the factors and processes that can make you more or less prone to act heroically. [added 12/29/11]

Bystander intervention - This is a complete lesson plan in which students, prior to the lesson, "read 'bystander scenarios' that depict people in need of help. For each scenario they predicted whether the onlooker would help the person in need and then gave reasons why an onlooker would or would not help in the specific situation. In class students compared their answers on the pre-test and compiled a set of factors that influence people in bystander situations. The instructor then introduced a research-based model of bystander intervention, and led a discussion comparing students' ideas to the model. At the end of class each student wrote an individual analysis explaining the similarities and differences between the model and his or her group's ideas of bystander behavior. As a homework assignment, students analyzed another set of bystander scenarios (post-test exercise)." Hat tip to Jim Matiya for pointing me to this resource. [added 7/8/07]

Egoism/Altruism Test - This test contains a number of interesting scenarios that can serve as classroom examples, activities or assignments.

Multimedia Resources (Audio / Video)

Audio

The psychology of gift giving - In this podcast, researchers discuss the following studies: 1) Give a piece of you: Gifts that reflect givers promote closeness, 2) Give them what they want: The benefits of explicitness in gift exchange, 3) When doing good is bad in gift giving: Mis-predicting appreciation of socially responsible gifts, and 4) Moments of truth in gift exchanges: A critical analysis of communication indicators used to detect gift failure

Another interesting take on the Kitty Genovese story - (8:49) [added 7/3/09]

"The myth of the Kitty Genovese story" - (21:56) Mike Britt produces podcasts on a variety of psychology topics including this one following up on the article by Manning et al. [added 4/01/08]

This episode is a summary of the good samaritan study on helping - (30:35) from Michael Britt's PsychFiles

Video

Citizen stops car of person having a seizure (0:52) - What's his motivation?

"The surprising self-interest in being kind to strangers" (15:27) - a TED talk

Thoughts and Prayers app (1:46) - hilarious "ad" for an app that makes helping effortless and self-aggrandizing

Donating at the cash register (0:34) - The South Park tv show provides a humorous take on this donation appeal technique.

Empathy or sympathy? (2:54) - This short, animated video attempts to distinguish empathy from sympathy.  I don't think it really succeeds at that, but it does provide a good picture of empathy.

"What if the homeless gave you money?" (5:19)

Would you stop and help? - (2:50) Here is another of those staged episodes to see if passersby would stop and help, this time in India. [added 2/2/15]

What would you do? - (6:28) And here's another. [added 2/2/15]

"Does money make you mean?" - (16:35) an interesting TED talk from Paul Piff on how wealth can sometimes reduce empathy and compassion [added 1/29/15]

Storytelling, neurochemistry, and helping - (5:57) Fascinating little video describing research on how good stories affect our chemistry which affects our behavior. [added 1/29/15]

Penguin empathy(?) - (00:12) I always enjoyed the penguin "aggression" video. Now we have the other side of the coin. [added 1/3/14]

The evolutionary benefits of altruism - (13:41) Two brief lectures from Dacher Keltner at UC Berkeley - here - (18:16) is the second one. [added 1/20/12]

The bystander effect - (2:32) a video on how the Kitty Genovese case spurred bystander research [added 1/15/10]

The bystander effect - (5:58) I've linked to ABC News' show "What would you do?" before, in which they set up situations to see how people would respond. Here is a good one on the bystander effect. [added 7/3/09]

Man punches shark - (1:12) video about a man who "punched a shark to save his dog's life" [3/26/09]

Children modeling parents - (1:31) Cute little video [added 12/12/07]

 

Class Assignments

Projects

#FeedtheDeed -  Interesting project in which students are randomly assigned to perform a good deed for a stranger or a family member/friend.

Using Principles of Social Influence to Create Prosocial Change - This project also won honorable mention for the 2013 Social Psychology Network Action Teaching Award. "In this action teaching assignment, students begin by learning about six key principles of social influence from Robert Cialdini's book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion: (1) commitment and consistency, (2) social proof, (3) liking, (4) reciprocation, (5) authority, and (6) scarcity. The class then selects a social problem of concern and develops a "social change project" that applies social influence principles to creatively and effectively address the problem. In one case, for example, students raised over $2,000 for a United Nations anti-malaria program and generated 200 postcards sent to the White House urging the government to stand by its pledge to end malaria by 2015. In another case, students invited a survivor of human trafficking to speak on campus -- an event that drew over 300 students, faculty, staff, and community members and helped raise $540 for anti-trafficking organizations. Other social change projects included raising more than $1,000 to buy prosthetic limbs for landmine victims, soliciting nearly $2,000 for Pakistan flood relief, netting over $1,300 for Japanese tsunami relief, and, closer to home, securing free meals for local senior citizens. These projects served to show students how social influence techniques can be used as prosocial influence techniques." [added 8/13/13]

Changing the world, $5 at a time, through a grant assignment - This assignment, by Jennifer Hunt, won the 2012 Social Psychology Network Action Teaching Award. "When the grant assignment is introduced, students are asked to select a problem related to women, sexuality, or gender that they believe is particularly important. Students are also asked to contribute $5 to create a 'grant fund' that will be used to help address one of the problems selected by a class member. This donation is framed as a small, manageable donation that could be accomplished by, for example, giving up a minor luxury (e.g., a latte coffee). The instructor donates money to the grant fund as well... After the papers are submitted, students summarize their proposal in a brief oral presentation to the class (approximately 4 minutes long). After hearing all of the presentations, the class votes on which proposal should receive the pooled grant money. The money is then donated to an organization that carries out the intervention identified by the student." [added 6/16/12]

Putting positive psychology into action - a service learning project [added 8/1/10]

Research for community action - Lori Rosenthal teaches her students "about research methodology through research projects that make an important difference to the local community." This project assignment was selected as the winner of the Social Psychology Network's inaugural Action Teaching Award. [added 4/6/06]

Service learning experience - Students in Mark Covey's Social Psychology course participate in a significant service learning requirement which includes a service learning journal. [added 6/15/04]

Assignment to Design and Conduct a Helping Experiment - in Word

Paper Assignments

When would or wouldn't someone help - Sue Frantz begins with a case of heroism, and then at the end of this brief blog entry describes an interesting assignment she gives her students.

Carnegie Hero Fund - Nora Murphy created this interesting assignment in which students choose a hero from the Carnegie Hero Fund site and apply social psychology concepts to the case. [added 12/19/06]

Examples

We donate more when fatalities are high but not when # of survivors is high - Donations to the Orlando shooting victims and families has been quite large.  As recent research has found, people donate more money when there is a high number of deaths, even though we should be donating more when there is a large number of survivors who really need the help.

Empathy - "Woman runs over frog [accidentally] with a lawnmower -- then flies him hundreds of miles for surgery."

Pay it forward - "At one Philly pizza parlor, customers can 'pay it forward' by pre-purchasing $1 slices of pizza for people in need."

5-year-old helps homeless man

Sacrificing one's life

Truly altruistic behavior? - Although this is a very sad case, I am always looking for good examples that raise the question of whether humans helping can ever be considered unselfish. [added 2/2/15]

Omission bias - Is failure to not helpless reprehensible? Are people more responsible if they do something (vs. fail to do something)? omission bias- we tend to blame outcomes on actions rather than inactions.

Ex: A boy throws a ball (action) that another boy could have gotten but wasn’t paying attention (inaction) and it breaks a car window. Who is most to blame? Ans: boy who threw ball

You are walking up the street in SF when you see a trolley careening out of control. It is about to hit and kill 5 people. You happen to be standing next to a switch that could divert the trolley to a second track where it would kill only one person. Do you flip the switch? Ans: yes b/c action is indirectly causing one person’s death, but saving 5

You are standing on a bridge in SF when you see a trolley below you careening out of control. It is about to hit and kill 5 people. You are standing next to a large man who is leaning over the railing to see what is happening. If you push him off the bridge, he will fall on the track and be killed, yet his weight will stop the trolley saving the 5 people. Do you push him? Ans: no because action directly caused person’s death (H/T George Schreer) [added 2/2/15]

"Prosocial bonuses increase employee satisfaction and team performance" - "In three field studies, we explore the impact of providing employees and teammates with prosocial bonuses, a novel type of bonus spent on others rather than on oneself." The first link is to the research article; the second link is to an online article about the research. [added 1/29/15]

Social loafing/bystander effect - Sam Sommers provides a nice example in the form of a mass email request for help. [added 4/3/13]

Priming of helping - "Men who had been approached by a woman asking for directions to Valentine Street were willing to help a different woman retrieve her cell phone from “thieves”, helping her almost 37% of the time. Men asked for directions to Martin Street only helped 20% of the time. The simple mention of “Valentine” unconsciously motivated men to behave in a more chivalrous manner." [added 4/01/13]

Bystander effect - about the individual who was pushed on the tracks of an oncoming subway train in New York City [added 3/5/13]

Identifiable-victim effect - We are more likely to help identified victims than unidentified or statistical victims. Here's an example of personalizing victims, in this case a group that many are uninterested in helping to begin with. [added 6/20/12]

Reciprocal altruism - Woman dropped three valuable rings into a Salvation Army bucket apparently because the Army helped her grandfather years ago. [added 6/18/12]

Example of heroic rescue - During the recent Norwegian massacre, a tourist helped rescue several teens on the island where the shooting took place. [added 1/15/12]

Bystander intervention - case of bystanders and a medical team helping a man survive despite going 96 minutes without a pulse [4/9/11]

Good Samaritan case [added 12/5/10]

Bystander apathy - A very disturbing video -- A man who helped rescue a woman from an attack was seriously injured in the attack. He is now lying on the sidewalk dying. Watch the response of passersby. (Passersby - is that a word?) [added 6/19/10]

Man punches shark - video about a man who "punched a shark to save his dog's life" [3/26/09]

Children modeling parents - cute little video [added 12/12/07]

Ambiguity of Situation - I see examples all the time of how the level of ambiguity of need for help in a situation has changed over time in our society. For example, quite a few years ago if the interior light of a car was on it usually meant the person forgot to turn it off. If you saw that person leaving his car with the light still on you might mention it to him. As the technology advanced so that more and more cars had interior lights that turned off by themselves, there was a period of time during which that experience was an ambiguous one (at least for me). Is this one of those cars? Eventually, it was no longer ambiguous. Now, if I see someone close up a car and leave and the interior light is still on, I am quite confident that will turn off on its own. No help is needed. A similar pattern has occurred more recently (at least for me!) with car headlights. A few years ago, even if you knew that interior light was going off on its own, if the headlights were left on you might mention it to the driver. Now, some headlights turn off on their own shortly after the driver leaves. So, now I'm back in the land of ambiguity! Eventually, I imagine, when I see a driver walk away from his car, and it's rolling backwards down the hill, I'll think, "Oh, it's one of those new ones that park themselves."

Bystander effect - Sam Sommers comments on an event that happened in China in which passersby ignored a young child lying in the road who had been struck by a truck. Read Sam's commentary at the first link; here is a video which shows the kid being hit by a truck and then ignored by some people passing by. [added 1/15/12]

Bystander Effect - When we talked about altruism and helpfulness in class two past experiences crossed my mind. The first experience was on my sister's birthday, December 22nd. Our family had a dinner planned for this occasion. We were all to meet at a restaurant at a particular time. The weather on her birthday was terrible. It was very cold and icy. Also, there was quite a bit of snow still on the ground from the previous week. Well, I got stuck in my parking spot at my apartment. And, no one helped. I saw several people look out their patio windows at me, but no one helped. My tires were spinning and I know people must of heard my car. I was absolutely frozen. Well, finally I managed to dig around my tires and rock myself out of the rut. I was late for the dinner and had a chill all night. I was very mad that people saw me and did not help. I just couldn't believe they would watch a girl struggle whom they had seen in the apartment hallways and laundry room. However, after talking about the reasons some people help and some don't in class, I understand a little bit more. I believe the reason most people didn't help was just the ambiguity of the situation and lack of empathy. These people were just unsure about whether I really needed help or the consequence if they did help. And, it was so cold perhaps it just was not worth the effort. In addition, there was obviously diffusion of responsibility as there were many observers, yet not one helped. Perhaps, the observers thought someone would eventually help me and each passed the buck to the other.

Bystander Effect - This PBS site accompanying a Frontline show on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan massacre details how many countries stood by and did little to prevent the slaughter of 800,000 Rwandans.

Identifiable victim bias (Empathy) - Why are we more willing to empathize with and help a few dozen stranded miners in Chile than the millions affected by flooding in Pakistan? This article suggests it is, in part, because of the miners are more clearly identifiable. [added 9/25/10]

Empathy - "Doctors who express empathy get highest patient ratings." [added 12/26/07]

Empathy - Relating to my husband's broken leg experience (again!), I offered some help to a woman last week at school. She was on two crutches and looked wistfully at the coffee pots before class started. I offered her my seat so she could put her bad leg on the table and got her some coffee. After living with this situation for so long, I know it's impossible to carry a cup of coffee while on crutches. This is a perfect example relating to my notes on "conditions affecting whether or not to help -- #6 empathy -- more likely to help similar others because easier to empathize/easier to relate to them." (I know punctuation is incorrect, but here I am quoting my incorrectly punctuated class notes!) This was the only condition which warranted me to help: there were many other people around; I was anonymous to her; I didn't feel guilty about anything; and I didn't even think about her response.

Empathy - The second experience was when I was on my way home which at this time was to my parents' house. I saw a jogger on the side of the road which looked injured as he was lying down and holding his leg. It was dark out and I wanted to stop, but thought maybe I should get my dad to come with me. So, I drove quickly home and dashed into the house to tell my dad. My dad was very eager to help just as I was because he was a jogger. You see, both of my parents and myself are joggers (similarity was the key here). Anyhow, my dad went with me to go see if we could help this injured jogger. Well, he wobbled himself to a parking lot down the street when my dad and I found him. He was not a jogger, but a drunk with long hair and earrings and a beautiful orange jacket. I was so glad my dad was with me! My dad and I brought the man home and I apologized to my dad for mistaking him for a jogger. He was very understanding. I believe both my dad and I could relate to what I perceived as an injured jogger. My dad has limped home himself several times. We definitely had empathy for this supposed jogger. I believe our moods were good too. I know my dad and myself well enough to know that if either one of us were in a bad mood, we would not have bothered.

Fear inhibits helping - Here's an interesting and disturbing first-person story of a journalist (and others) observing a helpless victim receiving a vicious beating and not intervening. This link takes you to an interesting blog which connects this event to some research on what is courage. [added 11/17/07]

Guilt - Fascinating story of Aki Ra who was forced at age 5 to plant land mines for the Khmer Rouge. "Ra regretted what he had done during his time in the Khmer Rouge—and he vowed to spend the rest of his life making it up to his fellow Cambodians. He remembered where he had buried many of the land mines, and knew how to quickly and safely disarm them. So, armed only with a metal detector, a small pocketknife, and several other small tools, he began locating land mines on the ground and disarming them by hand....So, for more than 20 years, Ra has traveled through the Cambodian countryside, disarming thousands of active mines and leading safety education programs for villages. Though the mines are filled with TNT and could detonate at any second, Ra has never been injured in his work." [added 3/6/10]

Guilt - I went through the Starbucks' drive thru over the weekend and after I order the lady asked if I would alike to buy a pot of coffee for the soldiers in Iraq. I was not ready for the question; I was kind of frazzled from other things going on (drive thrus wig me out, expecially when it is the building and a curb and the car has to fit between the two....YIKES). Anyway, I said yes because how do you say no. Guilt surely took over me. I would have felt horrible if I said no, but why... who knows if the soldiers will really get the pot of coffee. It was certainly somewhat of a selfish act because I did not have to worry about feeling guilty for the rest of the day. [added 4/16/08]

"The guilty green" - Guilt and Helping - Describes the guilt many environmentally-conscious people feel when their behavior is not always consistent with their beliefs [added 12/26/07]

Refusal of "help" - Londoners mostly passed up an offer for a free 5 pound note in this little "experiment" conducted by a price comparison website. [added 7/31/08]

Responsibility - An example of someone not helping because they feel that the event was internally caused and controllable was found in the movie "Burning Bed." In it, Farrah Fawcett is being abused by her husband and goes to her mother for help. Her mother's response is, "You make a hard bed; you got to lie in it." Here the mother clearly feels that since the daughter decided to marry the man -- a controllable, internally caused decision -- she isn't as deserving of help. It's her fault, she'll have to deal with it.

Social Responsibility Norm - Commuters push train to help passenger - interesting example of mass helping [added 2/2/15]

Social Responsibility Norm - During flooding in Gurnee, the TV reporters interviewed many people who were sand-bagging, asking them why they were helping out. Many responded in line with the social responsibility norm. They didn't live in the area, had nothing to gain or lose from stopping the flooding, but were out there helping because it seemed the right thing to do. I think that many were also motivated by what the book terms "perceived reasons for the need." People are more likely to provide help if they attribute the difficulty to external causes beyond the person's control. Here the rain causing the river to rise and flood would be an example of an uncontrollable event externally caused.

Using social norms - Hey, who put those pink flamingos on my lawn? "The flamingos were placed there by someone other than the home's resident to get the homeowner to donate money. In order to have the flamingos removed, the recipient needed to make a donation. The recipient is also encouraged to "flock" a friend's lawn in order to get them to contribute as well." [added 7/5/09]

Topic Resources

Opportunities for Helping

Get resources to the homeless? There's an app for that

Food banks - Looking to donate some food or volunteer hours at a food bank? You can locate a food bank near you at this Feeding America site. Other resources and opportunities available as well. [added 4/18/09]

Give a "good card" - Here's another good idea for a last minute gift. Pick an amount, purchase the good card in that amount, give it to someone, and that person can then donate that amount to the charity of his or her choice. It is tax deductible for the buyer.
[added 4/18/09]

Improve your vocabulary and donate rice! - Another site at which you can make donations (of rice, in this case) while playing a game. Fun learning tool for your students. Okay, you can play, too. [added 4/13/08]

ModestNeeds.org - Here's another one -- a site where you can "change the life of a low-income family by clicking 'Learn More or Invest Points' and authorizing Modest Needs to make the grant of your choice. If you do, we'll fund that application instantly." [added 12/16/07]

Another helping website - Idealist.org is another of the type of sites where visitors can combine with others to solve different problems around the world. [10/13/07]

Microlending opportunities through web site - I pointed you to another web site below (Donors Choose) in which individuals could review requests from teachers and choose to donate to one or more of those classrooms. This web site allows potential donors to lend money to "a specific entrepreneur in the developing world, empowering them to lift themselves out of poverty." [added 8/05/07]

Donors Choose - An innovative project in which classroom teachers, primarily in high-need schools, submit proposals for projects that need funding. Potential donors can visit the website to choose to which project(s) to help fund. Also watch the video from the story. [added 7/16/07]

Giving circles - "Giving circles come in many different forms, but usually involve a group of friends who pool their charitable donations and decide together how to use the money to benefit the causes they care most about." [added 7/16/07]

Charity evaluator - Charity Navigator is a site that collects and rates more than 5000 charities. Charities can be searched alphabetically, by category, by region and by ratings. Site also includes a collection of related articles. [added 12/22/06]

Examples of Helping

"High school students start club to make sure no one sits alone at lunch" - "A club called We Dine Together at Boca Raton Community High School in Boca Raton, Florida, consists of students who roam their school's courtyard during lunch looking for students who are eating alone.  They then introduce themselves and get to know the students."

What happens when a city gives its poor residents money without strings? - See what happened when Utrecht, Netherlands tried this.  Others have tried as well.

The Explore website - Explore is a website that "champions the selfless acts of others." The site includes video examples, lesson plans, and other resources. [added 8/22/11]

Do-it-yourself foreign aid projects - interesting story about individuals developing their own ideas for helping others abroad [added 12/22/10]

Charter for Compassion - "The Charter for Compassion is a cooperative effort to restore not only compassionate thinking but compassionate action to the center of our lives." The site includes many acts of compassion shared by citizens from around the world. [added 10/16/10]

Random acts of kindness - The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation is promoting.... yes, random acts of kindness. At this site you can see lots of grassroots efforts to do so, as well as other resources, particularly for the K-12 school or classroom. [added 3/15/05]

"To save a life: Stories of Holocaust rescue" [added 3/23/04]

"HeroicStories" - Need examples of "heroism"? The stated purpose of this site "is to use the power of the Internet and existing media to bring diverse, international voices to the world to explore the idea that people are good, that individuals and individual action matter, and that regularly showing examples of people being good to each other will inspire similar actions in others." A few examples are provided at the site. More can be obtained by subscribing to HeroicStories sent to you for free via e-mail. [added 11/11/03]


Examples of Heroism - at this Carnegie Hero Fund Commission site find thousands of biographies of "extraordinary" heroes and links to a few other similar sites

Assignment Idea from Nora Murphy using the Carnegie Hero website [added 12/2/06]

When We Help


Bystander Effect

More on the murder of Kitty Genovese

Winston Moseley died recently - Who was he?  Kitty Genovese's killer.

Bystander effect about more than diffusion of responsibility - Research finds that that bystanders were also affected by what they thought other bystanders were thinking.

"The 'myth' of Kitty Genovese" - This brief blog entry points you to a review of some of the claims in the case of Kitty Genovese, including the 38 witnesses, and to social psychologist Bibb Latané's response to it. [added 1/29/15]

Remembering Kitty Genovese, 50 years later - [added 1/29/15]

A pair of eyes watching you does not increase your generosity - according to a couple new meta-analyses

We donate more when fatalities are high but not when # of survivors is high - Donations to the Orlando shooting victims and families has been quite large.  As recent research has found, people donate more money when there is a high number of deaths, even though we should be donating more when there is a large number of survivors who really need the help.

We're less likely to help when near a luxury store - ahh, priming

More adversity, more compassion - Those who have experienced more adversity exhibit more compassion.

Hacker philanthropy - "Traditional philanthropy, he declared, is 'a strange and alien world made up of largely antiquated institutions.'  These old-timers have long favored 'safe' gifts to well-established institutions, 'resulting in a never-ending competition to name buildings at major universities, medical centers, performing arts centers and other such public places.' The new breed, by contrast, has a hacker mindset: It is anti-establishment, believes in 'radical transparency,' is given to problem solving, and has an ability to identify weaknesses in long-established systems and to disrupt them."

Who gives to charity? -aA good overview of some research

Dogs snubbed non-helpers - Some awesome research -- "The researchers tested three groups of 18 dogs by putting them in rooms with their owners as well as two strangers. The owners were tasked with opening a box, and solicited help from the two other people in the room (sometimes they would help and sometimes they would refuse).  After watching their owners either be rebuffed or aided, the dogs were offered food by the strangers -- and were much more likely to ignore the stranger who had been unkind to their owner."

Do you like being asked to donate at the checkout register? - Most Americans do(!) finds this research.

Volunteering improves mental and physical health

Authenticity and morality - Research finds that feeling inauthentic leads to feeling less moral and less clean, which leads to more helping behavior. [added 2/2/15]

Well-being and altruism - "Here’s what they found, and report in an article to appear in the journal Psychological Science: There were only 955 altruistic kidney donations during the decade they studied, and these varied widely by state. Delaware and Mississippi recorded zero donations during this period, and Utah had the highest rate of donation, by far. Well-being also varied fairly widely state-by-state, from a low in West Virginia to a high in Hawaii. When the scientists crunched these data together, they found a clear connection between state well-being and state levels of altruistic donation. This pattern held up when they collapsed the state data into nine broad geographical regions, and it also held true for a single year and for a decade. What’s more, the data clearly support the engine model: That is, increases in objective well-being—like income—lead to a greater subjective sense of well-being, which in turn promotes acts of kindness to strangers." [added 2/2/15]

Attractive mug shot goes viral - "Jeremy Meeks is a convicted felon, an alleged gang member and is currently being held in jail on more felony weapons charges. Bail has been set at $1,000,000. That’s not a typical biography for an internet celebrity. Yet, Meeks has a Facebook page with over 120,000 fans. His mother started a fundraising page that’s attracted 145 donations and over $2500 in one day. And the hashtag #FreeJeremyMeeks is trending on Twitter. The positive feelings are all related to his “handsome” mug shot, which was posted by the Stockton Police Department on Facebook this week, and quickly became a sensation. It is a stunning example of how the American criminal justice system — in which defendants have the right to be judged by a jury of their peers — is often influenced by superficial attributes." [added 2/2/15]


Does hunger lead to hoarding or sharing? - Blog entry looks at some interesting research on the question. [added 8/13/13]

Lady Macbeth effect and OCD - After individuals with OCD and those without were induced to report unethical behavior, half washed their hands and half did not. Then they were given the opportunity to help. Would washing their hands cleanse them of the guilt of the unethical behavior and, thus, reduce their willingness to help? Would it affect those with OCD differently? Read and discover the results of this fascinating study. [added 8/13/13]

When do we donate to disaster victims? - more often when the disaster is natural rather than human-made [added 8/13/13]

Does disaster increase altruism in the victims? - interesting study in China after a devastating earthquake left almost 70,000 dead [added 8/13/13]

"Loving" increases donations - "French researchers say that adding the text 'donating=loving' to a charitable collection box almost doubled the amount of money they raised." What if you put "donating=giving money" on the box? Or, "donating=enabling dependency of no-good, lazy people"? Or, "help adopt a penguin!" So many possible follow-up studies your students could conduct. Or, you could have them justify a variation/hypothesis based on previous research. [added 1/29/12]

What's the best way to beg for money? - Here's an interesting field study in which a student dressed as a panhandler (how do they dress?) tested the following: "When people walked by, Daniel would either be sitting down (the passive approach) or standing up (the active approach) and he would either look them in the eyes or not. So there were times when he was 1) sitting down and looking people in the eyes, 2) sitting down and not looking people in the eyes, 3) standing up and looking people in the eyes, or 4) standing up and not looking people in the eyes." Read to find out what he found, I beg of you. [added 1/29/12]

Sweet-toothed people are sweet! - Oh good, another excuse to eat chocolate! Thank you, Brian Meier. "Brian Meier and his team had dozens of students rate the agreeableness, extraversion and neuroticism of 100 people, based on pictures of their faces and a strap-line identifying each person's preference for a particular food, such as 'I like grapefruit.' People who said they liked a sweet food were judged by the students as more agreeable, suggesting that we implicitly recognise that a taste for sweet things is grounded in a sweet personality. Are people right to make this implicit assumption? Further studies suggested so. Students who rated their own personality as more agreeable also tended to have a stronger preference (than their less agreeable peers) for sweet foods and drinks. Among a different set of students, a stronger preference for sweet foods correlated positively with their willingness to volunteer their time, unpaid, for a separate unrelated study - considered by the researchers as a sign of prosocial behaviour." [added 1/29/12]

More willing to help victims of natural than man-made disasters - [added 5/31/11]

Women and children first? Not if I'm in a hurry - "Records from two nearly 100-year-old shipwrecks, the Titanic and the Lusitania, have given researchers new insight into human selfishness — and altruism. On one boat, it seems, the men thought only of themselves; on the other, they were more likely to help women and children. This occurred for one key reason, researchers said: time. The Lusitania sank in about 18 minutes, while the Titanic took nearly three hours. Women and children fared much better on the Titanic." [added 7/15/10]

Costs and Benefits of Helping

Cruel to be kind - Recent research suggests that making someone feel negative emotions can be beneficial to them in the long run.  Oh, and here is some classic rock!

Helping is tiring - It can drain your cognitive and emotional resources.  In fact, I had a couple more resources to point you to, but i just....  here David Myers describes some examples of super grit, to see if it might energize you instead.  That's a good empirical question:  Does hearing about someone else's super grit energize or deflate us?  How did you feel after reading the super grit article?  Your students?

"People are more willing to hurt themselves than others for profit" - A clever study: "You wait in a cubicle, electrodes strapped to your body. In a room nearby, a stranger is confronted with a series of decisions. They can choose a smaller cash reward and avoid an electric shock, or a larger sum that comes together with an unpleasant zap. The twist is that in half of the trials, the stranger knows the associated shock punishment is for them, but in the others they know it’s you who will suffer." [added 2/2/15]

Costs and benefits of helping - The authors "explore whether organizations that seek to increase charitable giving by advertising the benefits of giving are making claims supported by empirical research and, most importantly, whether such claims actually increase donations." [added 1/19/10]

Does giving correlate with and even cause increased happiness? - This paper provides a good review of the literature. Short answer: Yes and yes. [added 1/19/10]

"Volunteering produces health benefits" - report from AmeriCorps [added 7/16/07]

Evolutionary benefits of social networks - a research report [added 7/6/06]

Why We Help

"Two-year-olds seem to find helping others as rewarding as helping themselves"

"Use hearts to get more tips" - "We all know that Valentine’s Day is a heart-filled holiday, but is it possible that seeing a heart changes how much you tip at a restaurant? In a study of over 350 restaurant patrons’, waitresses delivered the bill under one of three candy-filled dishes: square, round, or heart-shaped. Results revealed that more people tipped (the study was in France, where tipping isn’t necessarily automatic) when provided with a heart-shaped dish and tipped a higher amount compared to the other two shapes." [added 2/2/15]

Extraordinary altruism; What prompts it? - Would you donate a kidney to a stranger? Perhaps if you feel better off, according to this research (or, if you live in Utah) [added 1/29/15]

Does gossip promote cooperation? - Research suggests that the threat of ostracism behind some gossip discourages self-interest and encourages cooperation. [added 1/3/14]

A new nuanced view of oxytocin's effects on social behavior - a brief summary of a talk which reviews what we currently know about oxytocin and social behavior [added 8/13/13]

"Forgiveness is a social act" - [added 8/13/13]

Reciprocal altruism in infants? - "We are usually eager to assist people who have helped us in the past. These reciprocal relationships are an important part of adult interactions and foster cooperation in society. New findings, reported in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggest that this reciprocal behavior may have early beginnings and can be demonstrated in children as young as 21-months-old." Am I allowed to call 21-month-olds infants? My rule of thumb: If a baby can point to another baby and call it a baby, it is no longer a baby. [added 7/15/10]

"Humanity-esteem and its social importance" - Fascinating research that relates one's humanity-esteem ("Overall, how favourable are you toward human beings in general?") and your likelihood to differentiate between groups, feel others are trustworthy, and more. Here's a couple scales that we are going to see a lot more of in the literature. [added 7/16/09]

"The moral instinct" - Interesting essay from Steven Pinker asking the question who "is the most admirable -- Mother Teresa, Bill Gates, or Norman Borlaug?" [added 4/7/08]

Social anxiety and volunteering - This report from the Penn School of Social of Social Policy and Practice discusses how social anxiety may inhibit those who would like to volunteer from stepping forward to do so. [added 11/29/07]

Why volunteer? - a research report entitled "Why volunteer? Evidence on the role of altruism, reputation, and incentives" [added 11/17/07]

Transmitting prosocial values - "Like mother like son? Experimental evidence on the transmission of values from parents to children" finds "no significant correlation between the degree of cooperation of a child and that of his or her parents." [added 7/16/07]

Cooperation evolved from competition? - an article describing research suggesting that altruism may have arisen from its superiority over selfishness when competing for resources with other groups [added 12/31/06]

Empathy

Do our ideas about happiness affect our empathy? - good blog entry reviewing some research on the topic [added 2/2/15]

"Can narcissists be moved to show empathy?" - [added 2/2/15]

Some neuroscience behind empathy - interesting study [added 1/3/14]

3-yr-olds already know better than you how to help you - When you pointed to a working cup next to a broken cup and asked the three-year-old to hand it to you, the child would 97% of the time. But when you pointed to the broken cup, the child would hand you the working cup 70% of the time. Silly adults. [added 8/13/13]

"The 'haves' show less empathy than 'have-nots'" [added 1/29/12]

The study of smiling - very interesting story in the APS Observer on the many facets of smiling research and what it all means [added 12/22/10]

Empathy and violence have similar circuits in the brain - Gives new meaning to a love/hate relationship. [added 10/16/10]

Doctors are desensitized to your pain! - I knew it. And when we find research suggesting that they enjoy it, all my fears will be confirmed! Just kidding, doc. [added 7/15/10]

Differences in empathy or us-vs-them mentality - interesting essay on how broadly we extend our empathy to "others" - here's another on the same topic [added 3/7/10]

"Empathic people remember your smell" - "Forty-four female university students were twice tasked with smelling three t-shirts and picking out the one that belonged to their room-mate. The t-shirts had been carefully prepared - worn overnight for an average of eight hours, after the owner had used scent-free toiletries for the previous two days. Based on their performance, the students were arranged in three groups: 21 of them failed both times to pick out the correct t-shirt; 10 of them picked the correct t-shirt once; and 13 of them picked the correct t-shirt both times. The key finding was that the students who both times identified their room-mate's t-shirt by its smell also tended to excel at a test of identifying facial emotional expressions, and at a test of empathy in which they had to say how someone would feel in a range of different situations." What if you can smell your roommate's t-shirt from 20 yards away? [added 1/18/10]

Witnessing another's physical versus social pain - "Witnessing another person's physical pain registers more quickly in the brain than compassion for social or psychological pain, but the latter leaves a much longer-lasting impression." [added 7/16/09]

Empathy and Oxytocin - more research "connecting oxytocin to trust and generosity" [added 12/16/07]

Theory of mind or curse of knowledge? - This blog provides a good account of some really interesting research. How could adults think THAT? Well, I do every time I watch TV and wonder why one character can't figure out what's coming next since I know. [added 11/17/07]

Altruism and empathy in America - interesting analysis of survey results from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago [added 7/6/06]

"Can Animals Empathize?" - a debate in Scientific American (1998) - "Yes" by Gordon Gallup, Jr. (who originally developed the Mirror Test of self-awareness) and "Maybe not" by Daniel Povinelli - in Word

"Morals, Apes, and Us" - (2000) by Marc Hauser, in Discover magazine - "Can animals learn to share, cooperate, punish, and show empathy?

Other Resources

"Pressuring employees to be do-gooders can backfire badly"

Are popular classmates cooperative? - More popular female classmates showed more skillful leadership working with their peers, while more popular boys showed less skillful leadership.  Other interesting findings are also described.

So what happened to the Ice Bucket Challenge money raised? - Here's an accounting of the $115 million raised, one year later.

"The myth of the ethical shopper" - We would like to believe that conscientious shopping can change the world, but this excellent essay shows how complicated and difficult that is.  The first link is to a video of an interesting street test suggesting that you can improve the lives of the poor by how you shop.  This essay suggests it's not so easy.

Link between prosocial media and prosocial behavior ... across cultures - [added 2/2/15]

You are what you avatar - Are you more willing to help after playing a good versus evil character in a video game? "What they found was that those who had the Superman avatar gave twice as much chocolate as hot chili. The Voldemort avatars did the opposite, giving future players much more chili than chocolate. Those who had neutral avatars (the circle) used less of both chocolate and chili." [added 2/2/15]

Prosocial media and video games positively influence behavior across cultures - [added 1/29/15]

Being compassionate can also provide health benefits - good article from APS Observer [added 8/13/13]

"Chimpanzees not as selfish as we thought" -My chimp often lets me take the last slice of pizza. [added 1/29/12]

"Why people are twice as likely to assist as you think" - A blog entry describing some research on how we underestimate how likely we are to receive help when we ask for it. [added 12/14/08]

"Outside of a small circle of friends" - Lyrics from the song "Outside of a small circle of friends" by Phil Ochs describing a reluctance to help, including a verse based on the Kitty Genovese case [10/13/07]

"Chimps share altruistic capacity with people" - [10/13/07]

More people volunteering - "Volunteering has reached a 30-year high in the United States, as more people pitch in to help their communities, according to a study released today by the Corporation for National and Community Service." [added 12/31/06]

"Hero dog fills out hospital paperwork" - very amusing piece from the satirical online newspaper The Onion [added 12/31/06]

"Volunteering in the United States, 2010" - a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics [added 1/15/06]

Cooperation among the baboons - interesting article of possible cultural transmission of female baboons' attempt to induce more cooperation from male baboons [added 6/9/04]

Revisiting the case of Kitty Genovese - You have probably heard of Kitty Genovese. How about Kew Gardens? That is the name of the community in New York where the tragic murder of Kitty Genovese took place in 1964. A long-time resident provides a pictorial history of Kew Gardens. Of particular interest is his review of the case of Kitty Genovese. He includes the original New York Times article reporting about the murder. He then attempts to carefully separate fact from fiction presented in the article and elsewhere about the case. [added 4/05/04]

The Bystander Effect? The following text and sites come from The Scout Report:
The US and the Genocide in Rwanda 1994
"Bystanders to Genocide" -- from The Atlantic
The National Security Archive last month (August, 2001) posted sixteen declassified documents relating to the US response to 1994's genocide in Rwanda. The documents reveal that the United States planned from the beginning not to get involved until peace was restored, that the US tried to persuade the UN to withdraw all forces in Rwanda in April of 1994, and that US officials knew who was responsible for the killings and even spoke with leaders to try to stop further violence. These cables, memorandums, and papers are chilling in the light of the nearly one million dead. The latest issue of The Atlantic features an article by Samantha Power which uses the declassified documents along with interviews with those involved to deliver a "narrative of self-serving caution and flaccid will."
"The Evolution of Reciprocal Sharing" - article published in Ethology Sociobiology, 5: 5-14, 1984. Jim Moore.
Egoism/Altruism Test - This testl contains a number of interesting scenarios that can serve as classroom examples, activities or assignments - Update: This test/survey site has now gone commercial - so, you will have to pay to view take/view the egoism/altruism test [04/09/02]

Articles, Books, and Book Chapters (available online)

Book Chapters

Anik, L., Aknin, L. B., Norton, M. I., & Dunn, E W. (2010). Feeling good about giving: The benefits (and costs) of self-interested charitable behavior. In D. M. Oppenheimer & C. Y. Olivola (Eds.), The science of giving: Experimental approaches to the study of charity. Psychology Press.

Eisenberg, N. (2000). Emotion, regulation, and moral development. Annual Review of Psychology, 51, 665-697.

Van Vugt, M., & Van Lange, P. (2006). Psychological adaptations for prosocial behaviour: The altruism puzzle. In M. Schaller, D. Kenrick, & J. Simpson, Evolution and Social Psychology (pp. 237-261). Psychology Press.

Wegner, D. M. (1980). The self in prosocial action. In D. M. Wegner & R. R. Vallacher (Eds.), The self in social psychology (pp. 131-157). New York: Oxford University Press.

Wegner, D. M. (1982). Justice and the awareness of social entities. In J. Greenberg & R. L. Cohen (Eds.), Equity and justice in social behavior (pp. 77-117). New York: Academic Press.

Articles

Aknin, L. B., Dunn, Sandstrom, G. M., & Norton, M. I. (2013). Does social connection turn good deeds into good feelings? On the value of putting the “social” into prosocial spending. International Journal of Happiness and Development, 1, 155-171.

Bartz, J. A., Zaki, J., Bolger, N., Hollander, E., Ludwig, N. N., Kolevzon, A., et al. (2010). Oxytocin selectively improves empathic accuracy. Psychological Science, 21, 1426-1428.

Boyd, R., Gintis, H., & Bowles, S. (2010). Coordinated punishment of defectors sustains cooperation and can proliferate when rare. Science, 328, 617-620.

Bryan, C.J., Master, A., & Walton, G.M. (2014). ‘Helping’ versus ‘being a helper’: Invoking the self to increase helping in young children. Child Development, 85, 1836–1842.

Bushman, B. J., & Anderson, C. A. (2009). Comfortably numb: Desensitizing effects of violent media on helping others. Psychological Science, 21, 273-277.

Devlin, H. C., Zaki., J., Ong, D. C., & Gruber, J. (2014). Not as good as you think? Trait positive emotion is associated with increased self-reported empathy but decreased empathic performance. PLOS ONE, 9.

Dunn, E. W., Aknin, L. B., & Norton, M. I. (2008). Spending money on others promotes happiness. Science, 319, 1687-1688.

Dunn, E. W., Aknin, L. B., & Norton, M. I. (2014). Prosocial spending and happiness: Using money to benefit others pays off. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23, 41-47.

Fehr, E., & Gachter, S. (2002). Altruistic punishment in humans. Nature, 415, 137-140.

Forgas, J. P., Dunn, E. W., & Granland, S. (2008). Are you being served…? An unobtrusive experiment of affective influences on helping in a department store. European Journal of Social Psychology, 38, 333-342.

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Gagné, M. (2003). The role of autonomy support and autonomy orientation in prosocial behavior engagement. Motivation and Emotion, 27, 199-223. [added 6/8/04]

Gentile, D. A., Anderson, C. A., Yukawa, N., Saleem, M., Lim, K. M., Shibuya, A., Liau, A. K., Khoo, A., Bushman, B. J., Huesmann, L. R., & Sakamoto, A. (2009). The effects of prosocial video games on prosocial behaviors: International evidence from correlational, longitudinal, and experimental studies. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 752-763.

Gino, F., & Pierce, L. (2009). Dishonesty in the name of equity. Psychological Science, 20, 1153-1160.

Gneezy, U. & Rustichini, A. (2000). Pay enough or don't pay at all. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 115, 791-810.

Jeon J. & Buss, D.M. (2007). Altruism towards cousins. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 274, 1181-1187.

Johnson, J., Carroll, J., Gottschall, J., & Kruger, D.J. (2008). Hierarchy in the library: Egalitarian dynamics in Victorian novels. Evolutionary Psychology, 6, 715-738.

Levine, R.V., Norenzayan, A., & Philbrick, K. (2001). Cultural differences in the helping of strangers. Journal of Cross Cultural Psychology, 32, 543-560.

Liljenquist, K., Zhong, C., & Galinsky, A. D. (2010). The smell of virtue: Clean scents promote reciprocity and charity. Psychological Science, 21, 381-383.

Loewenstein, G. & Jenni, K. (1997). Explaining the identifiable victim effect. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 14, 235-57.

Manning R., Levine, M. & Collins, A. (2007). The Kitty Genovese murder and the social psychology of helping: The parable of the 38 witnesses. American Psychologist, 62, 555-562.

Mikolajczk, M., Gross, J.J., Lane, A., Corneille, O., de Timary, P. & Luminet, O. (2010). Oxytocin makes people trusting, not gullible. Psychological Science, 21, 1072-1074.

Morelli, S.A., Lieberman, M.D., & Zaki, J. (2015). The emerging study of positive empathy. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 9, 57-58.

Norenzayan, A., & Shariff, A. F. (2008). The origin and evolution of religious prosociality. Science, 322, 58-62.

Over, H., & Carpenter, M. (2009). Eighteen-month-old infants show increased helping following priming with affiliation. Psychological Science, 20, 1189-1193.

Powell, C., & Van Vugt, M. (2003). Genuine giving or selfish sacrifice? The role of commitment and cost level upon willingness to sacrifice. European Journal of Social Psychology, 33, 403-412.

Preston, S. D. and de Waal, F. B. M. (2002). Empathy: Its ultimate and proximate bases. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25, 1-72.

Schumann, K., Zaki, J., & Dweck, C. (2014). Addressing the empathy deficit: Beliefs about the malleability of empathy predict effortful responses when empathy is challenging. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 107, 475-493.

Shariff, A.F., & Norenzayan, A. (2007). God is watching you: Priming God concepts increases prosocial behavior in an anonymous economic game. Psychological Science, 18, 803-809.

Slovic, P. "If I look at the mass I will never act": Psychic numbing and genocide. Judgment and Decision Making, 2, 79-95.

Van Baaren, R., Holland, R., Kawakami, K., & van Knippenberg, A. (2004). Mimicry and pro-social behavior. Psychological Science, 15, 71-74.

Van Lange, P., Bekkers, R., Schuyt, T., & Van Vugt, M. (2007). From games to giving: Social value orientation predicts donations to noble causes. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 29, 375-384.

Van Vugt, M., & Hardy, C. (2010). Cooperation for reputation: Wasteful contributions as costly signals in public goods. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 13, 101-111.

Waytz, A., Zaki, J., & Mitchell, J. (2012). Response of dorsomedial prefrontal cortex predicts altruistic behavior. Journal of Neuroscience, 32, 7646-7650.

Wegner, D. M., & Schaefer, D. (1978). The concentration of responsibility: An objective self awareness analysis of group size effects in helping situations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 147-155.

Wilson, D. S., Van Vugt, M., & O'Gorman, R. (2008). Multilevel selection theory and major evolutionary transitions: Implications for Psychological Science. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17, 6-9.

Zaki, J. (2014). Empathy: A motivated account. Psychological Bulletin, 140, 1608-1647.

Zaki, J. & Mitchell, J. (2013). Intuitive prosociality. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22, 466-470.

Zaki, J. & Ochsner, K. (2012). The neuroscience of empathy: Progress, pitfalls, and promise. Nature Neuroscience, 15, 675-680.

 

 

 


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