Outline and Evaluate two explanations of human altruism.

Essay by college_girl_louCollege, Undergraduate February 2006

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The first explanation of human altruism is the empathy altruism hypothesis carried out by Batson. He suggested that empathy involves feeling an emotional response that is consistent with another person's emotional state, and acting upon this feeling selflessly. He believe that witnessing someone in need will create empathetic concern for them therefore motivating the helper to attempt to alleviate the distress of the other person. Batson hypothesis suggests that some people are more empathetic than others and this is the reason why some people display altruism and others do not. Batson argues that the ability to take someone else's perspective depends on three different aspects: that the observer has had a similar experience, so have a deeper understanding of how the person in distress feels. The observer is attached to the victim for instance they are a family member or friend. Or the observer may be instructed by others who imagine what it must be like to be in the needy situation.

Research for this hypothesis has been carried out by Batson himself, who firstly gave a collection of people a placebo drug which he claimed fixed the participants moods. He found that despite this belief, those who had earlier tested high in empathy, were more likely to take the place of 'Elaine' in empathy. Who was a confederate receiving electric shocks in another room and screaming from the pain she was receiving. Batson carried out further research which showed that manipulating approval/disproval for helping made no difference to the level of helping, amongst the high empathetic participants. But it made a big difference to the low empathy participants. This then shows that this research supports Batson's hypothesis that people do not help to make themselves feel better but to make other people feel better.

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