Sunday Bumday.

Well my Sunday’s are usually laid back to say the least. I was reading a tweet Psychology Today posted and it talked about a study that explains prosocial behaviour. The study was done by two behavioural scientists out of Princeton University in the 70’s(1973), John Darley and Daniel Batson; the study can be found here. It was a follow up to the original study done a few years earlier (1969) by Piliavin et al., found here.

It’s interesting to understand that the original study states “Therefore according to this model we are motivated to help people not by altruism (acting in the interest of others) but as a way of reducing unpleasant feelings of arousal.”. The second study included “religion” as a variable to answer the following hypothesis,  “People who are religions in a Samaritan fashion will be more likely to help than those of a priest or Levite fashion. In other words, people who are religious for what it will gain them will be less likely than those who value religion for it’s own value or are searching for meaning in life.”.

As it turned out, there was no correlation with this variable. So therefore the previous study that states people are motivated to help not by altruism, which now can be reworded as religious people are not altruistic.

See what I did there?

The 1973 study recruited seminary students, where they were given a questionnaire to assess their level of religious belief, or as I like to say, “holiness”. Haha.

In all seriousness there is a lot that could be wrong with these field studies, and why they have to be carefully done. First of are the ethical reasons, second are debriefs (which are virtually impossible to give in the first study) and lastly it’s just not good deceiving innocent people; the effects can be devastating. The model in the first paper basically assumes that people are all assholes, which they are IMO; well not all just the select few who happen to taint the pool for everyone.

A key thing to note that in the first study, 90% of males helped; which was statically significant. The ladies made excuses such as (and this caught me by surprise): “It is a mans job to help him” and “I wish I could help him”. But it’s a key thing to note that findings from observational studies, especially that of social psychology; are not easy to interpret correctly, as we may have several biases that throws roadblocks to how we understand results.




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