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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Essay on Effect of Rewards and Closeness on Altruism Behavior

A Greek philosopher once said that man is inherently good.  By inherently good, the philosopher meant that man does good for the sake that the act is good.  Recent studies show that human behavior is much more complex than the explanation of the early philosophers.  Several studies were used as basis for this research paper.  One study says that man uses psychological devices in order to hide his real intention in doing good.  Another study says that man does good because he sees himself in the other person whom he is helping.  It is the contention of this paper that human behavior is motivated by relationship and reward.  Man does good because of the level of relationship he has with the other person whom he is helping or because of the reward he expects to get from the act.  The purpose of this research is to establish human behavior is reducible into relationships and rewards and that human behavior can be determined based on the presence of these two factors.

Holmes et al (2002) disputes the assertion that many individuals act on the basis of self-interest.  It is their theory that while people also care for their own material well-being they also care for the well-being of others.  They argue that individuals only make it appear that they are acting in self-interest for the purpose of hiding deeper feelings of compassion.  In one study, Holmes et al tested the hypothesis that man’s willingness to help is greater when the act is presented as an economic transaction such as an exchange than when it is presented as an act of charity.  The study found that in the low-need and moderate-need conditions the offer of an exchange did not affect the donation while the offer of an exchange in the high-need condition elicited larger contributions.  This supports the theory that the participants were not interested on the thing given in exchange for the donation and that the people are more likely to act based on compassion when they can disguise it as an act of economic transaction.  In other words, the thing given in exchange for the donation serves only to hide the real intention of giving which is compassion. 

While Holmes et al sought to prove that man helps people because of compassion Cialdini et al (1997) thought that the desire to help other people is brought about by feeling of oneness with them.  Cialdini disputes the prevailing belief that man helps other persons because of mere feelings of altruism.  Cialdini et al sought to expose the weakness of this theory by proposing a non-altruistic explanation.   Cialdini questions the basis of the argument that when one person takes the perspective of another and experiences what the other is experiencing an altruistic feeling is developed that causes the person to help another.  This theory is weak since when we feel what the other is feeling and experience what the other is experiencing then the distinction between the self and the other person becomes hazy as it is possible that one may be helping the other more because of the desire to help himself.  Cialdini et al thought that when an individual help other persons it is because he perceives more of himself in the other person.  In other words, acts of generosity take places because an individual sees beyond his difference with another person and finds similarities that he share with other people. 

In another study, the impact of exposure to inciting incident or problem statement and receipt of feedback from a charitable organization on the donor’s emotion is determined.  Based on this study, it was established that exposure to emotions such as the reason why a certain person needs help has an impact to the donor’s emotion in the sense that it arouses the negative emotion on the part of the donor which can be converted into a positive emotion when the donor actually gives something to the person in need.  The same is true when the donor receives feedback from the charitable organization about the impact of the donation given to the person in need. 

These studies however are inadequate and incomplete.  The first study is weak in the sense that it presupposes that man is inherently compassionate.  The second study is also weak since it does not take into account other possible reasons outside of the feeling of oneness that motivates a helping behavior.  This research looks into the possibility that human behavior can be based on the reward he expects to get from the helping act.  For instance, expecting a ride home or receiving help from a difficult assignment is a reward factor that was not considered in the study conducted by Holmes et al.  This research also looks into the possibility that human behavior can be based on a person’s closeness or level of relationship with another such as being family members or being friends or being acquaintances by themselves are sufficient reasons for engaging in helping behavior.  The study of Holmes et al actually supports our study since to a certain extent the participants in their study were actually motivated to give a donation based on the product they received in exchange.  The impact on reward was not clearly established because the reward of a candle in exchange for the donation was not appealing enough to the participants.  The study of Cialdini also supports our study since the more a person’s relationship with another becomes closer the more he is likely to help other. 

It is our hypotheses that reward and closeness have a strong impact on human behavior.  Receiving a reward, which need not be a material reward, is a strong reason to motivate human behavior.  Conversely, if the person will not receive a reward or has no relationship with the other person it is likely that he will not help the other person.  Our hypothesis is based on the current business practices to provide incentives or bonus to employees as a method of improving employee performance (David Prizinsky, 2008).  Moreover, a company seeking to establish partnership with other their businesses in a different country which has a different culture initially seeks to cultivate a positive relationship with the other business.  Developing a harmonious relationship is a motivating factor in helping another person. 

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