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Psych 100B

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Psych 100B

  1. 1. The Balance 1 Running head: THE BALANCE OF FACTORS DETERMINING ALTRUISM The Balance of External and Intrinsic Factors in Determining Altruism Caren T. Nguyen University of California, Los Angeles
  2. 2. The Balance 2 The Balance of External and Intrinsic Factors in Determining Altruism Everyday, acts of kindness can be observed whether it is something as simple as helping another person pick up a fallen object or something more monumental such as aiding in disaster relief, yet it is not clear where these limits to human altruism lie. The question of how far one would go to help another in need depends on a variety of external and internal factors, and is complicated by the debate over whether true altruism can be attained or if it is merely a result of self-interest. It often becomes difficult to separate altruistic and egoistic intentions, because even the most altruistic examples seem to be tainted, while self-interest driven acts may upon closer inspection stem from altruism. In one study (Holmes, Miller, & Lerner, 2001), individuals were found to be more likely to give to a charity rather than to donate when they can get something in return, whether or not it was of any value to them such as a candle. This act may seem at first glance to be driven by selfish incentives, but since most of the participants did not need the candles, they were not contributing to further their own needs, and the act may have been a mask for altruism. Also, the fact that the amount of donations increased as the level of charity need increased seemed to point in the direction that humans do have altruistic inclinations under certain circumstances. In fact, another study (Warneken, & Tomasello, 2006) demonstrated that humans and related primates willingly offer assistance, even at a young age and when no reward was offered. Human infants made gestures of helping an adult pick up dropped objects when the adult made verbal exclamations and facial expressions of distress significantly more than in control groups where the object was dropped but the adult adopted a neutral facial expression. No reward was offered in either group, and the fact that the infants continued to help the adult obtain the out-of-
  3. 3. The Balance 3 reach object over trials in the experimental group suggested that personal gain did not have to be a factor in driving altruism. The infants willingly, and arguably even instinctively, offered help after it had been established that they would receive no reward. The authors used their experiment to make the argument that the will to help others is a specifically human trait that was crucial in evolutionary survival. This trait is also observed in some primate species such as chimpanzees, but not in others. A related study (Piferi, Jobe, & Jones, 2006) also found that in times of crises humans often display support without knowing the victims or getting anything in return. After the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, the investigators surveyed 343 individuals on whether they had given any aid to the victims, and their reasons for helping. Only 7% of the participants surveyed knew someone who may have been involved in the attack. Among the most common reasons for helping were because of feelings of distress on the part of the helper, to relieve distress for the victims involved, and the desire for others’ support if the helper was in similar situations. Although this study did not emphasize the evolutionary development of altruism, as in the study by Warneken et al., it nevertheless proposed that we have altruistic inclinations due to humans’ unique cognitive ability to apply others’ circumstances to ourselves, which helps us feel empathy for and want to help others. The authors called this the empathy theory of altruism. Although these three studies suggest that true altruism does exist, it is interesting to note that our capacity for empathy by means of drawing parallels between ourselves and others leads us to think of ourselves when we help others. This again blurs the question of if altruism exists or if it only exists because we are thinking of ourselves.
  4. 4. The Balance 4 The altruistic and egoistic forces for giving are intertwined, and here we are trying to distinguish which has more effect in driving altruism. The three above studies proposed that individuals are inclined to be altruistic, since no personal benefit was gained by helping others, or when there was something to be gained by helping, it was of little value such as the candle. In our study, we suggest that tendency towards altruism does depend on the value of the entity given in exchange for committing altruistic acts; in other words, we predict that individuals will be driven more by external incentives than internal motivations. We manipulated subjects’ level of incentive by either offering extra credit or no extra credit for doing a volunteer task, and also subjects’ cost to self for doing the task, high cost requiring more time devoted to the task than low cost, in order to determine the effect on the subjects’ willingness to volunteer. When no extra credit was offered, willingness to volunteer implied that the participants’ motivation for volunteering was purely altruistic, especially when the volunteering commitment was high. Although personalities vary widely, we wanted to see if college students’ tendencies to give help can be generalized to some degree. We predicted that there will be a main effect of incentive, a main effect of cost to self, and an interaction between the two variables. Participants’ mean willingness to volunteer should increase as the incentive increases and cost to self decreases. It was also expected that low cost will have a more significant increase in participants’ willingness to volunteer when extra credit was offered than when there was no extra credit. We propose that this is due to the two intrinsic motivational factors (incentive and cost) summing additively to significantly enhance willingness to volunteer.
  5. 5. The Balance 5 Method Participants Eleven participants (10 women and 1 man, mean age = 20 years), all of whom were students in a psychology research methods course at the University of California, Los Angeles, were involved in this study. All participated as a requirement for the course. Design The effects of incentive and cost to self on a participant’s willingness to volunteer were simultaneously tested in a within-subjects experiment. The amount of incentive to a subject was operationally defined as the amount of extra credit offered for doing a volunteering task. In the High Incentive (HI) level, an extra credit opportunity equaling a .5% increase in total course grade was used. In the Low Incentive (LI) level, no extra credit was given. In addition, we also manipulated the variable of cost to self, operationally defined as the number of hours the volunteering task would take, to see how it would determine participants’ inclinations to volunteer when paired with the different levels of incentive. In the High Cost (HC) level, participants were asked to give up three hours of their time for the task, whereas in the Low Cost (LC) level, only a 15-minute commitment was asked of the participants. To measure our dependent variable, subjects were asked to rate on a 7-point interval Likert scale how interested they would be to volunteer in each of the four conditions (HI-HC, HI-LC, LI-HC, LI-LC), with 1 being “extremely uninterested” and 7 being “extremely interested.”
  6. 6. The Balance 6 Materials and Apparatus Prior to testing, participants were given a pre-survey on which they filled out the number of hours a week they had for certain activities, such as watching TV, studying, and free time. We were only concerned with the amount of free time each participant had, in order to make sure that each had at least three hours per week before making that our HC level, in order to control for the extraneous variable of differing amounts of free time between subjects. All other questions on the pre-survey were meant to mislead the participants so that they would not know the purpose of our experiment. To control for specific item effects, we chose four different contexts (i.e., bake sale, campus cleanup, stacking chairs, and handing out flyers) and used a Balanced Latin Square (BLS) to pair them with each of the four conditions. These contexts served to control for demand characteristics so that the participants would not guess the objective of the study. Order effects were controlled for by making another BLS for each group of conditions to ensure that the order of exposure of the participants to each condition was counterbalanced. Random assignment to was used to control for participant self-selection bias and experimenter bias. In addition, we included two fake scenarios in each participant’s packet of scenarios, to further control for demand characteristics. The fake scenarios asked the participants to rate how likely they were volunteer for other tasks (i.e., serving refreshments and putting up decorations) for one hour. One of the scenarios offered extra credit while the other did not, and the scenarios were the same for and appeared in the same order across subjects (one in the beginning of the packet and one at the end). The scores on these scenarios were not tabulated.
  7. 7. The Balance 7 We kept the location, amount of need, and dates in which to volunteer similar across contexts, and also chose contexts in which the tasks were easy to carry out and uncontroversial in order to control for individual differences in preference for type of task. We chose the charity organization in each context to be the UCLA Psychology Department so that all participants would have similar affiliation and bias towards it. A cover letter was attached to each participant’s questionnaire, describing in detail that the department was seeking volunteers from several upper-division core psychology classes to help in the different tasks, and that extra credit would be offered for some tasks. In order to make it seem believable that the participants would potentially be corresponding with the department if they chose to volunteer, we included a three-digit code with the packets and explained that the participants could contact the department based on their code. Procedure All participants were tested in the same room at the same time. The six scenarios for each participant were arranged in order in advance and collated into a packet. In order to make our experiment more believable, we had the Teaching Assistant (TA) rather than ourselves explain to the class that the Psychology Department was distributing questionnaires to seek volunteers to help in several activities, and that the students would get extra credit in the class for helping on some of the activities. Instructions were given by the TA to the participants to fill out the questionnaires and to remember the three-digit code in order to refer to themselves when contacting the department. The packets were then passed out, and when everyone was finished marking his or her answer, we collected the packets. Immediately afterwards, the participants were debriefed as to the necessary use of deception and the purpose of the experiment.
  8. 8. The Balance 8 Results Figure 1 shows participants’ average willingness to volunteer as a function of incentive and cost to self. In general, participants were more willing to volunteer when external incentive was high than when low, and when cost to self was low than when high. High incentive seemed to have more of an effect in increasing average willingness to volunteer when the cost was low than when high, (the effect of high incentive in increasing average willingness to volunteer seemed to be greater when the cost was low?) but this difference was not found to be statistically significant. To test the effects of level of incentive and cost to self on participants’ willingness to volunteer, a two-way within-subjects ANOVA was used. This analysis revealed a significant main effect of level of incentive, such that the average willingness of participants to volunteer was significantly higher when incentive was high (M = 5.46, SD = 1.06) than when incentive was low (M = 3.14, SD = 1.42), regardless of the level of cost to self, F(1, 10) = 29.36, MSE = 2.01, p < .001. In addition, a significant main effect of cost to self was also revealed, in which average willingness to volunteer was significantly higher when the cost was low (M = 5.14, SD = 1.03), than when cost was high (M = 3.46, SD = 1.35), regardless of the level of incentive offered, F(1, 10) = 20.56, MSE = 1.51, p = .001. The interaction between incentive and cost to self was not shown to be significant, F(1, 10) = .55, MSE = 2.01, p = .474. Discussion As expected, participants were more likely to volunteer when external incentive was high than when low, and when the amount of sacrifice involved was low than when high. This
  9. 9. The Balance 9 supported our general hypothesis that external forces have more of an effect on altruism than internal motivations. There was no interaction between incentive and cost to self, as we had expected, but we suspect this may have been due to low power, which was a weakness in our study. Because so few participants were involved in the study, we had to use all of the data, including outliers. Perhaps if the study had included more participants, the outlier scores would have had less effect on the results, and perhaps an interaction would have been seen. Age may also have played a factor in determining our results, since our participants were all college students. Perhaps participants from different age groups would have shown different tendencies towards internal and external driving factors for altruism. Still, we felt that a strength of our study was that we used a highly ecologically valid incentive for our participants’ age group, and that very similar patterns of results would occur in real life when extra credit is an external motivating factor for certain behaviors. In light of the research done on altruism as a function of internal or external factors, we suggest that our research has implications for child-rearing and social situations. Perhaps by reinforcing with rewards behaviors such as sharing, we may help foster better community and interpersonal relations.
  10. 10. The Balance 10 References Holmes, J. G., Miller, D. T., & Lerner, M. J. (2001). Committing qltruism under the cloak of self-interest: The exchange fiction. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 38, 144- 151. Piferi, R. L., Jobe, R. L., & Jones, W. H. (2006). Giving to others during national tragedy: The effects of altruistic and egoistic motivations on long-term giving. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 23, 171-184. Warneken, F., & Tomasello, M. (2006). Altruistic helping in human infants and young chimpanzees. Science, 311, 1301-1302.
  11. 11. The Balance 11 Figure Caption Figure 1. Average willingness to volunteer as a function of incentive offered and cost to self.
  12. 12. Average willingness to volunteer as a function of incentive offered and cost to self 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 High Incentive Low Incentive Incentive Willingnessto Volunteer Low Cost High Cost


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