Distinguishing between altruistic behaviours: the desirability of considerate and heroic altruism and their relationship to empathic concern.

Norman, Ian (2020) Distinguishing between altruistic behaviours: the desirability of considerate and heroic altruism and their relationship to empathic concern. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Debate exists within the fields of evolutionary and social psychology around the concept of Altruism. From an evolutionary perspective, this relates to how a behaviour that is costly to the fitness of the altruist but beneficial to the recipient has evolved, particularly when the recipient is a stranger. From a psychological perspective the debate surrounds whether the motivations for altruism are instrumental to helping the altruist achieve a selfish goal (egoism) or whether motivations can be ultimate goals, with the purpose of improving the wellbeing of the recipient (altruism). Altruism within both of these perspectives has been operationalised in numerous ways but without consideration that different behaviours that fit the respective definitions of altruism could impact upon the ultimate evolutionary function of altruism or the psychological mechanisms that motivate altruism. Study 1, a qualitative content analysis of altruistic behaviour within newspaper articles examined the extent to which different altruistic behaviours are presented distinctly. The findings demonstrated that there are three broad categories of altruism; considerate, heroic and philanthropic. Study 2 examines whether participants display intra-individual variation in their altruistic intentions as determined by the operationalisation of altruism. A principal components analysis of participant responses to an altruistic intentions questionnaire demonstrated that there were two stable altruistic components that reflected considerate altruism and heroic altruism. The altruistic intentions questionnaire was validated in studies 3 and 4, to show that intentions do correlate with behaviours for each component. Within study 2, predictor models were also created through regression analyses, which demonstrated that whilst communal orientation and prior altruistic behaviour were predictive of both considerate and heroic altruistic intentions, disinhibition, social dominance and emotional reactivity were uniquely predictive of considerate altruistic intentions and agreeableness and openness were uniquely predictive of heroic altruistic intentions. The finding that emotional reactivity, a factor of the Empathy Quotient, was predictive of considerate but not heroic altruistic intentions was examined further in study 5, using a laboratory experiment. It was found that empathic concern was predictive of considerate altruistic behaviour but not heroic altruistic behaviour. Study 5 also found that agreeableness was not predictive of heroic altruistic behaviour, unlike study 2; this suggests that considerate helping behaviours may be more likely to be motivated by altruistic ultimate goals. Studies 6 through 10 explore the desirability of considerate and heroic altruists, as costly signalling theory suggests that altruism acts as a costly signal of a desirable underlying quality which increases opportunities to form cooperative and reproductive relationships, which offset the cost to the altruist. The findings were mixed, providing no clear evidence that considerate or heroic altruists are more desirable. However, study 10 demonstrated that whilst considerate and heroic altruists had similar desirability ratings, participants associated different underlying qualities to each type of altruist. Considerate altruists were perceived to be more intelligent, easy going, creative, cooperative, sympathetic, wealthy and thought to be better parents. Heroic altruists were perceived to be kinder, healthier, more understanding, more competitive, more physically attractive and have more exciting personalities. Overall, the evidence suggests that critical consideration of how altruism is operationalised is required to facilitate cross study comparisons so that researchers can construct a better understanding of what altruism signals and what the underlying motivations of altruism are.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 02 Dec 2020 15:32
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2020 15:32
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/77870

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