Social Psychology

Student Learning Program

Chapter 14: When do people help? (pp. 518–524)

Ask Yourself?

In this topic

  1. Is Help Needed and Deserved? (pp. 519–521)
    1. Noticing need
    2. Judging deservingness
  2. Should I Help? (pp. 521–524)
    1. Is helping up to me? Diffusion of responsibility
    2. When norms make helping appropriate
    3. When norms make helping inappropriate
Is Help Needed and Deserved?
Noticing need

To become aware of the need for help, you should be able to notice it. Busy and noisy surroundings make this noticing more difficult.

A happy mood leads to a more social perspective, so that the need for help is noticed more easily.

Audience inhibition: To avoid appearing foolish, we avoid helping behavior in front of an audience.

The unresponsiveness of others influences our helping behavior. If others fail to react, we are not likely to help.

Judging deservingness

There are various norms that dictate the deservingness of your help:

Controllability: If someone is in need due to an uncontrollable cause, we are more motivated to help.

Should I Help?
Is helping up to me? Diffusion of responsibility

The more other people there are to help, the less responsible we feel to help, and the smaller the chance that we actually help.

Case study: The larger the number of other people that are present, the less responsible for helping every individual feels: Diffusion of responsibility (Darley & Latané, 1968)

When norms make helping appropriate

People who hold leadership responsibility, or are the ones who should help, serve as a model or example, implicitly defining the norm for helping behavior.

Mentioning the (amount of) help of other people facilitates people's prosocial behavior.

Strong norms of concern for others, taught by parents or religion, lead to more prosocial behavior.

When norms make helping inappropriate

There are norms that prescribe not to help:

So what does this mean?

To be able to help, you should notice the need for help. After noticing, you have to decide whether the potential helpee deserves your help. The decision to help depends on the presence and actions of others: The more others there are, the less likely you are to help. Social and personal norms also play a role in helping. Another factor in helping is the (in)appropriateness of your help: You don't interfere in marital problems.

Next topic

Why do people help? Helping for mastery and connectedness

In this chapter

  1. Chapter 14 introduction
  2. When do people help?
  3. Why do people help? Helping for mastery and connectedness
  4. Role of superficial or systematic processing in helping and cooperation
  5. Prosocial behavior in society
  6. Chapter overview (PDF)
  7. Fill-in-the-blanks
  8. Multiple-choice questions