psychology of human relationship Notes

Module 6.1: Formation of relationship

What will you learn in this section?

Factors that play an important role in Formation of Relationship.

  • Evolutionary explanation for partner preference
  • The relationship between sexual selection and human reproductive behaviour
  • Attractiveness
  • Hormones
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex
  • The Social Exchange Theory
  • The Equity Theory
  • Rusbult’s investment model of commitment

Evolutionary explanation for partner preferences

  • Charles Darwin explained that within each animal species, including humans, there is variation, making people non- identical. Part of the variation comes from differences in individuals’ genes, 50′ per cent inherited from each parent, but genes (strands of DNA) can also undergo mutation, a random change affecting an individual’s physiology and behavior, which sometimes give individuals an advantage when competing for resources such as food, territories and mates.
  • Such individuals stand more chance of surviving into adulthood and reproducing offspring who will also have the mutated gene, with the characteristic determined by the mutation becoming more widespread over time. This evolutionary process of gradual changes to our genetic makeup is known as natural selection. One important way in which evolution works to shape human reproductive behavior is that of sexual selection.

Relationship between sexual selection and human reproductive behavior

  • The evolutionary approach (also known as the sociobiological explanation) is a biological explanation that sees males and females being subjected to different selective pressures, which causes them to utilize different ways to maximize reproductive potentials.
  • Sexual dimorphism concerns the different characteristics that male and female humans possess, for example males are generally larger and more muscular than females. Evolution explains sexual dimorphism as developing through the process of natural selection, because the evolution of different features gives an adaptive advantage, that is, it increases the chances of survival into adulthood and sexual maturity, where genes are passed to the next generation.
  • Sexual selection involves the natural selection of characteristics increasing reproductive success. For example If muscularity increases a male’s chances of being chosen as a mate, the characteristic will become stronger in the sexually selected male, and males will become progressively more muscular over generations. Reproductive success involves the production of healthy offspring ,surviving to sexual maturity,Males will grow steadily more muscular over generations if muscularity increases a male’s chances of being chosen as a mate. This characteristic will become stronger in the sexually selected male.

Male strategies

  • Several male strategies have evolved seeking to maximize opportunities for mating success, including the following:
    1. Courtship rituals :- allow males to display genetic potential, through characteristic and resource abilities.
    2. Location: – males evolved to be larger, which demonstrated strength for success in competition with other males. Some species have evolved weapons, such as antlered deer.
    3. Sperm competition: natural selection acted on males to make them more competitive by producing larger testicles, larger ejaculations and faster disappearing sperm.
    4. Mate guarding :- When another male conceives their female partner, males are afraid of being idle and spending resources on the child of another male. According to Buss & Schmitt (1993), women fear emotional infidelity because of the fear that their partner will spend resources on other women, whereas men fear sexually unfaithful partners. As a result, males engage in more guarding, where they supervise and stay in close contact with female partners to prevent them from mating.
    5. Stealth copulation: If given the chance, males mate with females other than their mates to increase their chances of success in reproduction. Women also benefit because having multiple fathers gives their children more genetic variety and increases their chances of survival. Through sneaky copulation with a genetically capable “gut,” females may also gain an adaptive advantage by being in a relationship with a resource-rich male while pregnant. However, if this is discovered, it may result in abandonment and leave the child to raise alone. resources.

Female strategies

  • Several female strategies have evolved that maximize opportunities for mating success, including:
    1. The sexy son hypothesis states that women choose attractive men because they are more likely to have sons with the same attractive qualities, which will increase the number of sons and, consequently, their own reproductive fitness.
    2. Handicap hypothesis: Zahavi (1975) believes that females choose males with handicaps because they promote the ability to thrive despite handicaps, which demonstrates superior genetic quality.This could help explain why women find men who drink or use drugs a lot attractive because they show that they can deal with toxins, which is a sign of genetic fitness.
    3. Courtship: During courtship, females choose males based on their reproductive fitness who are strong, healthy, and able to provide resources. Long courtship rituals are beneficial to females because they force males to work hard and spend money, increasing their likelihood of remaining after a successful mating. As a result, give more attention to women and their children. Therefore, men invest in female-oriented restaurants when dating.
  • As a result, female behavior is favored and the chances of successful reproduction are increased by natural selection through a number of methods, such as careful mate selection, monogamy (having only one sexual partner), and high parental investment.Females look for males exhibiting genetic prowess such as strength, status and resources. Females engage in intersexual competition where females select males from available. Females also use practices like courtship to help select the best male available, and also serve to get males to invest time, effort, and resources into them and any resulting offspring, increasing the chance that the male will not abandon them and offer. more protection and resources for the woman and her children.


  • Men look at women’s physical attractiveness as a sign of health and fertility, two qualities needed to have children. Because they tend to be more fertile, younger women are thought to be more attractive. Men tend to attract women more. often elderly people who have access to resources because this shows that they can support the woman and her children.
  • Women are more selective when selecting a partner due to their greater investment, even though physical attractiveness is less of a factor. Kindness from men also attracts women because it shows that they are willing to share resources.

Body symmetry and waist-to–hip ratio

  • Body symmetry and waist-to-hip ratio are forms of physical attractiveness that indicate genetic fitness, with males and females who possess near perfect body symmetry having 2 to 3 times as many sexual partners as those with asymmetrical bodies. Facial symmetry is especially seen as attractive, as it is regarded as the best predictor of body symmetry. Symmetry is particularly attractive in males as symmetry requires genetic precision and only males with good genetic quality can produce it. Generally symmetry itself is not directly attractive, but other characteristics related to body symmetry such as being more dominant or having higher self-esteem are.


  • The hormone oxytocin has been found to play an important role in the first stages of animal and human bonding and in parent– infant bonding, suggesting a similar mechanism for many types of love and attachment. The field of neuroendocrinology studies the role of hormones and the brain and is a rich area of research concerning the role of oxytocin in bonding. Oxytocin in rats has been shown to play a role in mother–pup bonding. Removing oxytocin in a
    mother rat by either blocking the hormone or injecting receptor antagonists will result in neglect of the infant pup (Strathearn, 2001).
  • Other research has found evidence of this relationship, including a study by Ruth Feldman Feldman (2013) suggests that oxytocin plays a role in all social interactions in humans. Feldman measured behavior related to social bonding including gaze, touch, vocal, physical and facial (affective) expressions. Oxytocin was found to support the three major social bonds in humans: parental, pair and filial. It was also found that oxytocin supports bonding throughout life, not simply during parenting and romantic bonding.
  • Another hormone called vasopressin has been found to play a role in stable, long-term pair bonding in prairie voles. Prairie voles are rodents who actively select mates, are monogamous, share parenting and are characterized by long- term pair bonds. These shared social characteristics, along with similar brain structures and neurochemical make-up, seem to make them a perfect candidate to study social behavior in humans. Researchers were able to show that vasopressin was necessary and sufficient for both aggression toward non-mates as well as mate preference formation (Winslow et al, 1993).

Major Histocompatibility Complex

  • One last example of a possible biological contributor to human relationships is related to body odor, genes and our immune system or our major histocompatibility complex (MHC). An interesting area of research is looking into how MHC may influence mate selection. The idea is that parents with differences in their MHC genes will pass on a stronger (more broadly defensive) immune system to their children because children inherit immune function from both parents. Evolutionary psychologists argue that we may have evolved ways to detect the level of MHC similarity between individuals. One line of research in this area is related to scent: we prefer the scent of those with more different MHC genes.

The Social Exchange Theory

  • There are different versions of social exchange theory (SET), but underlying all of them is the idea that in any relationship both partners are continually giving and receiving items of value to and from each other and, as people, are fundamentally selfish. relationships continue only if both partners feel they are getting more out of the relationship than they are putting in.
  • The theory sees people as perceiving their feelings for others in terms of profit (the rewards obtained from relationships minus the costs). The greater the rewards and the lower the costs the greater the profit and therefore the greater the desire to maintain the relationship.
  • Interactions between partners can be ‘expensive’, as they take time, energy and commitment and may involve unpleasant emotions and experiences. Therefore, for a relationship to be maintained, individuals must feel they are receiving more than they put in. The theory also sees social interactions as involving an exchange of rewards, such as affection, intimate information and status. The degree of attraction or liking between partners reflects how people evaluate the rewards they receive relative to those given.
  • Thus SET is a sociocultural explanation of personal relationships that focuses on economics and explains relationships in terms of maximizing benefits and minimizing costs. Social exchange is the mutual exchange of rewards between partners, like friendship and sex, and the costs of being in the relationship such as freedoms given up. A person assesses their rewards by making two comparisons:
    1. The comparison level (CL) :- where rewards are compared against costs to judge profits.
    2. The comparison level for alternative relationships (Colt) :- where rewards and costs are compared against perceived rewards and costs for possible alternative relationships.
  • Thibaut & Kelley (1959) proposed a four stage model of SET, setting out how relationships could be maintained. It perceives that over time people develop a predictable and mutually beneficial pattern of exchanges, assisting the maintenance of relationships.
The Thibaut & Kelly Model of Social Exchange Theory

Equity theory

  • Equity in relationships does not mean equality: instead it is a belief that individuals are motivated to achieve fairness in relationships and to feel dissatisfied with inequity (unfairness). Definitions of equity within a relationship can differ between individuals.
  • The formation and maintenance of relationships occurs through balance and stability. Relationships where individuals put in more than they receive or receive more than they put in are inequitable leading to dissatisfaction and possible dissolution (ending of the relationship).
  • Men look at women’s physical attractiveness as a sign of health and fertility, two qualities needed to have children. Younger women are considered more attractive because they tend to be more fertile. Ladies are more drawn to men. often elderly people who have access to resources because this shows that they can support the woman and her children. Although physical attractiveness is less important, women are more selective in choosing a partner because their investment is greater. Women are also attracted to men’s kindness because it gives an indication that they are willing to share resources.
  • Walster et al studied equity based on four principles




Rewards are maximized and costs minimized


Compromises and compensations are negotiated to achieve this fairness in the relationship


The greater the level of perceived injustice, the greater the feeling of dissatisfaction

Rollie and Duck’s five-stage model of relationship breakdown gnment

If the restoration of equity is possible, maintenance will continue, with attempts ma tie to realign equity.

Rusbult’s investment model of commitment

  • As another sociocultural explanation, Rusbult’s theory attempts to identify the determinants of relationship commitment and consists of three factors positively linked with commitment: satisfaction level, the comparison with alternatives and size of investment.
  1. Satisfaction level refers to the positive v. negative effect experienced in the relationship.
    Satisfaction is impacted by the degree to which a partner meets an individual’s needs. For example the extent to which a partner meets one’s emotional and sexual needs.
  2. Comparison with alternatives refers to the perceived desirability of the best alternative to the current relationship and is based upon the extent to which an individual’s needs could be met within that alternative relationship, for example the extent to which a potential alternative partner could meet one’s emotional and sexual needs. If such needs could be better met elsewhere then the quality of alternatives is high. If Such needs are best met within the current relationship then commitment is stronger.
  3. Investment size refers to the quantity and significance of a relationship’s resources, which would decrease in value or not be found if the relationship were to end. Partners invest directly into relationships. such as the time and effort put into the relationship, as well as indirect investments such as shared friends, children and cos owned material possessions. After investments have occurred, commitment is heightened as ending a relationship would then become more costly.

There are also two variables linked to commitment:

  1. Equity is the degree of ‘fairness’ within a relationship. inequity (perceived unfairness) leads to distress and lack of satisfaction with a relationship and thus less commitment to it. Such distress can be relieved by ending the relationship.
  2. Social support is the degree of care and assistance available from others, such as from family and friends. If such others approve of a relationship it produces a positive influence that increases commitment to the relationship.
  • Communication between individuals is an important factor in the formation and maintenance of relationships, with the quality of communication being a vital part in the building and development of interpersonal relationships. Relationships often end when individuals stop communicating. Effective communication is especially important to individuals who lack trust and self esteem as it often serves to clear up misunderstandings and anxieties and to build-up confidence within a relationship.
  • Factors that affect the quality of communication within a relationship include:
    1. Attribution
    2. Self Disclosure

Module 6.22: Role of Communication in Personal Relationships

What will you learn in this section?

  • Factors that affect the quality of communication within a realtionship include:-
    • Attribution theory
    • Self-disclosure
  • Explanation why Relationships change or end
    • Duck’s phase model of relationship breakdown
    • Rollie and Duck’s five-stage model of relationship breakdown
    • Knapp and Vangelisti’s stages of relational development

Attribution theory

  • Heider (1958) saw humans as ‘amateur scientists’. Trying to understand each other’s behavior by collecting information until they found a reasonable explanation. For example, is someone in an angry mood, because they’re a naturally angry person, or has something in the environment made them angry? Two basic attributions (reasons) for behavior were identified:
    a) Internal attribution :- a person behaves in a certain wav because of something personal about them, like their attitude or character.
    b) External attribution :- a person behaves a certain wav clue to characteristics of the situation they are in.
  • Attributions are highly affected by emotional and motivational states, with individuals often using attributions to portray themselves positively and others negatively, such as by deflecting blame onto others. Jones St Davis {1965i argued that we pay particular attention to intentional behavior (rather than accidental or unthinking behavior}.
  • So, for example, in a relationship if a person burst into tears during a conversation, then their partner may analyze this behavior by reference to whether they normally behave in this way whether they have been insensitive and provoked this reaction, whether there is an identifiable reason for the behavior (such as they’ve had a bad day at work), or whether there is some intention behind the behavior (e.g. attention seeking) that reflects the partner’s personality.
  • So in relationships, when negative outcomes occur, there is a tendency to see these as due to egocentric bias, where individuals seek to protect their levels of self-esteem by attributing their behavior to factors in the external situation and their partner’s behavior clue to defects in their personality. The motivation for doing this can often relate to wanting to control or punish one’s partner with Newman (1981) believing that attribution is a form of persuasion and ongoing communication in interpersonal relationships that influences their development and maintenance over time.
  • Harvey & Omarzu (1999) proposed the theory of minding the close relationship. Which argues that in healthy relationships individuals mutually take care to make positive, but accurate attributions about their partners. This sees communication in relationships as being a mutual, constant process of self-disclosing to partners and seeking self disclosure from them. Flexibility in making attributions in response to new information is also important, as is sometimes making negative attributions in order to promote discussion and solve relationship problems. This results in a buildup of trust and admiration for one’s partner.


  1. Selfrdisclosure (SD) involves communicating personal information about oneself to another. The revealing of such personal information leads to a buildup of intimacy, essential to the development and maintenance of relationships. SD is seen as especially important in the modern phenomenon of virtual relationships, where people interact and form strong interpersonal relationships through social media.
  2. SD in VRs tend to be based on more meaningful factors, for example shared attitudes and interests, rather than the more superficial factors found with FTF relationships, such as physical attractiveness. Also, due to the anonymity of VRs, SD tends to hear about one’s ‘true’ self rather than a publicly presented ‘false’ self and such real intimacies help build a stronger, more meaningful relationship. This means, due to the level of communication, that VRs have greater potential to be more longalasting than FTF relationships.
  3. SD can create high levels of affection that are sustained if people in VRs go on to physically meet. This occurs due to the initial lack of physical information (such as a person’s level of physical attractiveness), which can help form initial impressions of individuals that become resistant to change. Fits deep VRs form without physical information, such information will not be that influential when people meet in person.
  4. Intimate communication occurs more with VRs, because of a lack of gating, the limiting factors that can affect the formation and maintenance of FTF relationships. Visible features, such as a lack of physical attractiveness. a tendency to stutter or be shy, for example, are not apparent in VRs, so less physically beautiful, less confident and less socially gifted individuals have a better chance of developing a meaningful relationship. This means that, owing to the high levels of intimacy reached, progressing on to physically meeting each other will not be damaged by revealing a lack of physical attractiveness, and so on, due to the degree of intimacy established.
  5. There are dangers of communication in VR. People can misrepresent themselves online more easily and because of the anonymous nature oF the internet individuals are more at risk of being harassed than in FTF relationships. A recent phenomenon of communicating via ‘v’R is seating, the sending of sexually explicit photos and videos. This occurs as probably people Feel less inhibited in their behavior on social media than in real life, but there are dangers, such as being blackmailed or coerced into stitching behavior against one’s will. There is also the possibility that people may become overdependent on VRs so spend less time learning FTF relationship skills.

Explanation why Relationships change or end

  • Relationships have identifiable stages, most simply a beginning, a middle and an end. Knapp and Vangelisti (1996) have created a model of change in relationships that shows two main stages: growth and breakdown. This simple framework provides a decent outline of how relationships both grow and deteriorate. It can help us to understand how a relationships change and may eventually end. In this model, each stage is characterized by a different type of communication.

Duck’s phase model of relationship breakdown

Duck (2001) proposed three general reasons for why relationships break up.

  • Preexisting doom :- incompatibility and failure are fairly much guaranteed from the start of the relationship.
  • Mechanical failure : -two compatible, well meaning people grow apart and find that they cannot live together any longer
  • Sudden death :-the discovery of infidelity (cheating) or the occurrence of a traumatic incident (e.g. a big fight) leads to the immediate end of the relationship.

Duck proposed several other factors as contributing to relationship dissolution:

  • Pre Licensing personal factors :- e.g. individuals” bad habits or emotional instabilities.
  • Precipitating factors :- e.g., external influences such as love rivals, process features such as incompatible work hours, emergent properties such as lack of relationship direction, and attributions such as the perception that someone else is to blame.
  • Lack of skills :- e.g. having no experience in sexual activities
  • Lack of motivation :- e.g. perception of injustice.
  • Lack of maintenance :- e.g. spending too much time apart.

Rollie and Duck’s five-stage model of relationship breakdown




This is an internal unhappiness with the relationship. Dissatisfaction is not communicated with the partner but may include withdrawal, resentment of the partner and an evaluation of alternatives to the relationship. This may be in the mind of one or both partners but no information is shared.


Dissatisfaction is now expressed to the partner. The couple may discuss the problems or dissatisfaction. They will adopt a pattern of accommodation and either actively or passively construct or deconstruct the relationship


This is the public phase where problems are shared with a wider community, perhaps in the search for social support. Normative social influence begins to play a larger role here as we are open to influence from members of a larger social community.

Grave dressing

This is about recovering from the relationship ending. It is characterized by defending the decision to break up and arguing that the break-up was justi ed. As always this can be argued by both partners or just one.


The resurrection phase was added later and involves recovery from the relationship. At this stage the “new person” who emerges from the end of the relationship and is characterized by a redefinition of the self in relation to the former partner and greater community.

Knapp and Vangelisti’s stages of relational development

  • Knapp and Vangelisti (1996) have created a model of change in relationships that shows two main stages: growth and breakdown. This simple framework provides a decent outline of how relationships both grow and deteriorate. It can help us to understand how a relationship changes and may eventually end. In this model, each stage is characterized by a different type of communication.

Module 6.3: Social Responsibility

What will you learn in this section?

  • Prosocial behaviour
    • Hamilton’s kin selection theory
    • Reciprocal altruism model
    • Batson’s empathy altruism theory
  • Bystanderism
    • Factors affecting Bystanderism
    • Reasons for bystanderism
    • The Arousal : Cost- Reward Model
      Promoting prosocial behaviour

Prosocial behavior

  • Prosocial behavior is characterized as voluntary behavior intended to help others. Such behavior is generally motivated by concerns for the rights and welfare of others, due to feelings of empathy and concern for others. Prosocial behavior is, therefore, the opposite of antisocial behavior.
  • Altruism is the idea of unselfish prosocial behavior where an individual does something at a cost to themselves in order to benefit another. Arguments are still ongoing about whether altruism actually.r exists. Some argue that no one ever performs an action without there being some reward for that individual, while others contend that humans do exist who are truly unselfish in their actions. Altruism among related individuals is explained by kin selection theory, where sacrifices are made by an individual to benefit genetically related others, while reciprocal altruism explains actions that benefit non-related individuals, as being where individuals perform acts that benefit others in the expectation that for doing so they will similarly he helped by others at a later date.

Hamilton’s kin selection theory (1954)

  • Evolution sees behaviors that increase an individual’s survival chances as being acted upon by natural selection so that such behaviors are passed on to children through genes, thus becoming more widespread in a population. The idea of altruism seems therefore to oppose evolutionary theory, as altruistic behavior involves a cost to an individual to benefit others, such a cost might even be the loss of that individual’s life in order to save those of others.
  • Hamilton’s kin selection Theory is based on the idea of inclusive fitness, which not only considers the effect of a behavior on an individual’s survival and reproduction level (direct fitness), but also upon the survival and reproduction of relatives (indirect fitness), because we share genetic material with our relatives. Thus, when an individual performs an action at a cost to them selves, but which benefits their relatives, the reward of the action is to increase the survival and reproduction chances of their own genes contained with others. This is the idea of kin selection.
  • The theory also argues that the closer the genetic relationship between an individual and others, such as a father and his children, and the more relatives that will benefit from an individual’s altruistic behavior, then the greater the risks and efforts an individual will make to benefit those others.
  • Many examples of kin selection are seen in the animal world, especially in animals that live in social groups where many members will be related to each other and thus share genetic material.
    For example, an adult zebra risking or losing its life to prevent a lion from killing its young. Similar examples can be argued for among humans, such as reducing your own survival and reproduction chances by donating a kidney to a family member, thus increasing their survival and reproduction chances.
  • Kin selection theory, like many evolutionary explanations, allows predictions to be made, based on evolutionary theory, as to how individuals will act in the real world. These predictions can then be checked to assess their validity, with such research generally tending to support the theory.
  • Kin relationships are also defined by much more than a genetic similarity. Individuals living in close proximity share environments (and related challenges) and have bonded to each other. Kajanus (2016) points out that this nurture kinship may influence helping behavior and help extend Hamilton’s theory from biological to sociocultural applications of kinship. It would also explain adoption kinship as a nurture kinship.

Reciprocal altruism model

  • Robert Trivers explains altruism in terms of evolutionary psychology with his reciprocal altruism theory. Trivers (1971) defines altruism specifically to include prosocial behavior between genetically distant or unrelated individuals that includes some detriment to the helper (in evolutionarily fitness), for example, someone diving into a rushing river to save a stranger. Trivers argues that helping a genetic
    a relative is not altruism because the helper is simply contributing to the survival of his own genes carried by the relative. In other words, reciprocal altruism attempts to explain altruism where kin-selection can be ruled out. The basic tenet is that altruism between strangers (or even species) can be genetically beneficial because in the long run they benefit the helper.
  • Obviously, the benefit awarded to the helper would be a return of helping behavior in their favor in the future. If a drowning man is saved by a helper today, he is likely to come to the aid of his helper in the future. The reciprocal altruism model claims that helping is genetically beneficial because helping when you can will translate into help when you need it, aiding in the propagation of your genes. The helping relationship is dependent on a cost-benefit ratio of the altruistic act where the benefit to the person in need is greater than the cost to the helper.
  • Cheating, as defined by Trivers, is when an altruistic act goes unreciprocated. In a social setting, generalized altruism can take root. Given that people learn from others and that cheaters may be noticed and denied reciprocation by the group, altruism between members of an ingroup can flourish. In this way, altruism can become socialized to a group where altruistic acts are performed freely with anticipation of reciprocity. This could be a mechanism of group selection where natural selection acts at the group level, favoring groups with norms such as reciprocal altruism because of the benefits they provide to its members. This makes even more sense from an evolutionary perspective where in ancient times individuals of an ingroup would be likely to share significant genetic relationships, reinforcing the reciprocal altruism model with kin selection theory (see below) in terms of prosocial behavior.
  • Axelrod and Hamilton (1981) used the “Prisoner’s dilemma” (a thought experiment introduced in Unit 2) to describe reciprocal altruism. Two “prisoners” are caught at a crime scene and brought in for police questioning. They are presented with a situation where they may cooperate with each other or cheat. The individuals are rational and do not know what the other is doing. Each person can cheat on the other or remain loyal, so there are four possible outcomes. The best communal outcome requires both individuals to cooperate but the best individual outcome requires individuals to cheat. When repeating this game over and over, individuals are given the opportunity to learn the patterns of the other so cheating behavior may result in retaliation while loyalty may result in loyalty. If this is a single occurrence and no future relationship between the individuals is assumed, the possibility of cheating is higher. However, if they are given the opportunity to learn over time, cooperation is more likely to be the option of choice because reciprocal altruism will have been learned.

Batson’s empathy altruism theory (1937)

  • Batsona’s empathy-altruism theory believes that altruism as truly unselfish behavior actually exists, as individuals will help others, at a price to themselves, purely out of concern for the well being of others. His central idea is that if we can feel empathy (experience the feelings of others) by perspective taking (accessing the viewpoint of others then we are motivated to help those people, regardless of the cost to ourselves. When empathy is not felt: individuals will only help others if by doing so the benefits of the action outweigh the costs.
  • Identifying a person who is in need of help is seen as producing one of two types of emotional reaction:
    1)Personal distress :- feelings of concern or anxiety are generated that cause discomfort.
    2)Empathetic concern :- feelings of sympathy are generated for the person in need of help.
  • Motivation for helping another caused by feelings of personal distress is based on reducing one’s own levels of discomfort. This is egoist (selfish) helping as it is based on one’s own feelings rather than the feelings of others.
  • Motivation for helping another caused by feelings of sympathy for another is based on reducing the discomfort of others. This is altruistic (unselfish) helping as it is based on the feelings of others rather than one’s own feelings.


  • Bystanders are people who witness events, but do not intervene or offer assistance. The true story of Kitty Genovese where a woman was brutally murdered and no one tried to help her generated a lot of interest from psychologists in trying to explain such behavior.
  • Decades of psychological research into something called the bystander effect raises doubts about that, the bystander effect refers to the phenomenon where the possibility of a person providing aid decreases when passive bystanders are there t in a critical situation. There are countless examples like the ones given above describing tragedies that could have been avoided if only someone had intervened to help someone in need.
  • In l964,28 year old bar manager Kitty Genovese was brutally raped and murdered outside her apartment in New York. Winston Moseley was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life imprisonment (he died in prison in 2016). Two weeks after the incident the New York Times ran a s tory that claimed up to 38 people witnessed the event but
    none had gone to her assistance or phoned the police. This phenomenon became known as the ‘bystander effect’ and the ‘Genovese syndrome. Public reaction was one of anger and disgust; how could people be so indifferent to the plight of another? It was this incident that proved to be the inspiration for psychologists to conduct research and try and explain such behavior.

Factors affecting Bystanderism

  • Following are important factors in a person’s decision to act or not to act



Diffusion of responsibility

the perception that others are witnessing an event will significantly decrease the likelihood that an individual will intercede  in an emergency situation. This may be because they believe someone else will act but also because they are more comfortable sharing blame than taking all the blame personally

Ambiguity of the situation

If individuals are unsure whether there is indeed an emergency, they may be less likely to react for fear that they have misread the situation and acted in a way that breaks social norms of decorum.

Group inhibition

We look to others in order to help us interpret situations, especially in ambiguous situations. If others are not acting, we are likely not to act either. A social norm of not acting has been established and acting while others are not would break that norm. As we are social animals, we choose not to break the norm and appear foolish or as if we are overreacting.

Informative social influence (social proof)

acting in accordance with group behavior in an attempt to act “correctly”. Individuals are convinced the group is acting in the correct manner and adjust behavior to act correctly. For example, individuals are convinced by the inaction of others that a situation they initially identified as an emergency is, in reality, not one and so, like those around them, they don’t act

Normative social influence

acting in accordance with group norms in order to “fit in” and be seen as a member of the group. Individuals may not be convinced of the truth of the group belief but adjust behavior to maintain the group norms and membership within the group. For example, an individual is worried about being judged and excluded from the group if he or she acts. Fear of embarrassment, overreaction, or ridicule may be motivating factors here.

Reasons for bystanderism

1) Number of witnesses:-

The greater the number of witnesses then the less likely it is that others will intervene. Three reasons for this have been put forward.
a) Diffusion of responsibility :- the belief that the more witnesses there are, then the more likely it is that someone else will help. Therefore, each bystander feels less obligated to intervene.
b) Pluralistic ignorance :- the belief that if others are not helping, then the situation cannot be an emergency and therefore help is not required.
c)Evaluation apprehension :- the belief that if an individual intervenes. then their actions will be rated by others. This is seen as creating a reluctance to help.

2)Type of emergency

  • Whether bystanders intervene is heavily dependent on whether an emergency is perceived as being one for which help is required. Bystanders are much more likely to intervene, even if there is risk to personal safety, when a situation is seen as an emergency.

3) Emotional arousal

  • The Arousal : Cost- Reward Model sees the chances of bystander intervention occurring as being dependent on whether stitch intervention would reduce the emotional arousal caused by an incident. This requires a cost reward analysis where the costs of helping such as physical effort, risk of harm, and so on, are compared against the costs of not helping such as criticism from others and self-blame.

4) Cognitive appraisals

  • Darley &Latane (1970) proposed a five-stage model of bystander behavior the main principle of which was that individuals make a number of swift assessments in deciding whether or not to help. Each appraisal (assessment) that is met by a positive response moves the individual onto the next appraisal. If all appraisals are positive then help is offered, If any appraisal is negative,then help is not offered.

5)Social identity

  • The likelihood of bystander intervention is affected by an individual’s social identity. if a person who is identified as in need of help is seen as a member of one’s one social group (in-group) they are more likely to be given help than if the individual is seen as a member of another social group (outgroup)

The Arousal : Cost- Reward Model

  • Another way to look at helping behavior and bystanderism is the arousal: cost-reward model (Piliavin et al, 1981). This model is based on social exchange theory: the idea that people engage in social interactions that maximize benefits to themselves, sometimes referred to as the resource theory of social exchange. The premise is that people exchange social goods such as smiles, a friendly “hello”, love, reproachful glances, angry stares and so on in the same way they exchange commercial goods and services. A strength of this model is that it takes both physiological arousal and cognition into consideration.
  • This is an interpretation of helping as an egoistic behavior. According to this model, people experience an unpleasant emotional/physiological arousal when they
    witness others in distress. Arousal acts as a motivator for action. Witnesses perform a cost- reward appraisal to determine if they should act to help or remain a bystander. There are costs and rewards to both acting and not acting; witnesses are evaluating if there will be a net cost or a net reward for action. If there is a net reward, a bystander will become a helper.
  • The bystander effect is consistently, and too often tragically, seen in real-life situations as well as in experimental research. We have explained prosocial behavior and the bystander effect separately but they are, of course, inextricably linked to each other. In a way, bystander research is simply a way to observe a group’s influence on prosocial behavior. It is important to remember that categorical thinking is reductionist. Human behavior is complex, and more so in social situations. Categorical thinking is harmful to full explanations; you can use everything you know about human psychology to explain human behavior. In short, any lines drawn between different behavior such as bystanderism and prosocial behavior are entirely arbitrary and should be erased when
    it makes for a better explanation of behavior.

Promoting prosocial behavior

  • Prosocial behavior concerns the voluntary actions of an individual which are intended to benefit another person or society as a whole. Promoting prosocial behavior is advantageous, as such behavior is associated with many desirable outcomes. Individuals who exhibit sharing, helping and cooperating behaviors generally have high levels of social competence (are able to interact positively with others), are liked by others and do well academically. Developing prosocial behavior is also directly related to the reduction of antisocial behavior and thus the costs such behavior incur upon society.
  • Psychological research has identified several factors that are associated with the development of prosocial behavior:
    1) Perspective taking :- individuals who are able to empathize {see from another person’s viewpoint) are more easily able to develop prosocial behaviors, as the motivation for such behavior involves having concern for the welfare of others.
    2) Prosocial moral reasoning :- individuals who base their behavior on belief systems centered on the welfare of others can also more easily develop prosocial behaviors. again because such behavior is focused on concern for others.
    3) High self-esteem :- individuals who have elevated levels of self worth, as well as a sense of competence in what they do, are more able to interact effectively with others and thus develop prosocial behavior.
    4) Emotional well-being :- individuals who have good mental health are able to function effectively at work and in their interpersonal relationships. so have more scope to be able to develop prosocial behaviors.
    5) Attributional style :- individuals who can take responsibility for themselves and their actions, as they see themselves able to influence events through their own efforts (internal attribution), tend to view themselves and their environment more positively than people who believe they cannot influence events (external attribution), and so are more able to develop prosocial behaviors.
  • These factors can generally be influenced through parenting and teaching styles, as well as interactions with peers.


  • Schools can provide learning experiences that develop the skills necessary for prosocial behavior. This can occur directly through the actual content of educational programmes,as well as indirectly through providing opportunities for meaningful interactions between peers that allow them to develop and practice the social and cognitive skills necessary for prosocial behavior.
  • Prosocial behavior can be promoted through lessons that provide cooperative and collaborative learning activities: for example, activities where students have to work together to achieve goals. Such activities allow students to develop their ability to interact with others in positive ways through the development of perspective taking, empathy and prosocial moral reasoning.
  • Partnering less and more able students with each other to work towards collective goals is also a useful way of promoting prosocial behavior, as it provides opportunities for them to work together in cooperative and collaborative ways and thus learn the positive value of participating in prosocial behaviors.
  • Some schools provide students with specific prosocial learning programmes, such as the PATHS Programme for Schools, which is used in primary schools to promote the development of self-control, emotional awareness and interpersonal problem-solving skills.
  • This is delivered in specific lessons, using specially designed materials and delivered by trained personnel. Research suggests such programmes have a positive impact upon students in the short and long-term, though their costs and finding space for them within the curriculum can sometimes be problematic.

Parenting styles

  • Research has shown that certain ‘positive’ parenting styles are associated with the development of prosocial behaviors. This includes the parenting of young children, but positive parenting has maximum effect on the development of prosocial behaviors in adolescents.
  • The two most important factors for ‘positive parenting’ are having secure attachment patterns with parents, which are developed in early childhood (but can be developed at any stage of development), and the use of balanced positive discipline, where using disciplinary practices that are loving, empathetic and respectful is seen as strengthening relationships with parent and leading eventually to individuals developing a conscience that is guided by compassion for the needs of others.
  • Traditional ‘authoritarian’ parenting is seen as incurring negative outcomes, as it installs fear and shame in children, which is associated with increased risks of future antisocial behavior, for example crime and drug abuse.
  • Authoritarian parenting can also weaken the trust between a parent and child, which harms the attachment bond. Alternatively, balanced positive discipline is a parenting tool based on helping a child to develop a conscience that will be guided by self: discipline (where a child monitors their own behavior from a moral viewpoint) and concern for others. Techniques include offering a child choices, making positive changes, strong emotions and making decisions together.

Module 6.4: Origins of conflict and conflict resolution

What will you learn in this section?

  • Kriesberg’s three basic types of behaviour arise from conflicts
  • Social identity theory
  • Realistic conflict theory
  • Methods Of conflict resolution
  • Interactive conflict resolution: Kelman (2008)


  • A conflict is a dispute that arises owing to two incompatible viewpoints. Conflicts are a natural product of human interactions and indeed can be positive as well as negative in nature. Deutsch (1949) distinguishes between destructive conflict, which is to be avoided, and constructive conflict, which he sees as an essential and valuable part of human creativity. When conflict leads to violence, then it can be seen as destructive, though it has been argued that the threat of violence can be a route to reducing conflicts.
  • Mack & Snyder (1957) believe that conflict can be characterized by four conditions:
    1) the presence of two or more separate parties,
    2) a scarce or valuable resource.
    3) mutually opposed goals,
    4) the possibility of behavior designed to injure others.
  • Conflicts can occur between individuals, social groups or indeed nations and can therefore be interpersonal, intergroup and international.
  • Conflicts can be seen as cognitive rather than behavioral in nature, as conflicts arise from a perception of incompatibility between groups and are resolved by removing that perception and replacing it with one of compatibility. Conflict behaviors, such as violence against specific groups of people, are an effect of perceiving there to be a conflict rather than being a cause of such conflict.
  • Conflicts arise in two ways:
    1.over issues of interest, where conflicting groups agree on their goals, but disagree about how to achieve them, generally over the distribution of resources between groups (like allocation of funding to different groups).
    2.over issues of value,where conflict arises over fundamental beliefs (like those between different religious groups). These conflicts are harder to resolve. In terms of rewards, zero sum conflicts, where one group wins all of a resource, so that the other group gets none, are the hardest to resolve.
  • Kriesberg (1982) argues that three basic types of behavior arise from conflicts:
    2.coercion and
  • Conflicts can be seen as cognitive rather than behavioral in nature as conflicts arise from a perception of incompatibility between groups and are resolved by removing that perception and replacing it with one of compatibility. Conflict behaviors such as violence against specific groups of people are an effect of perceiving.

Social identity theory

  • SIT argues that conflict against ‘out-groups’ arises purely out of individuals identifying themselves as being members ‘in-groups’. SIT sees individuals as gaining identity and self-esteem from membership of ‘in-groups’, with self-esteem linked to the status of one’s ‘in-group’.
  • If the status of an ‘in-group’ is low or gaining access to valuable resources is difficult, self-esteem will be low but can be increased by moving to a higher status ‘in-group’ or improving the social status of one’s existing ‘in-group’. These options often are not available, especially to minority groups, so conflict between groups arises.

Realistic conflict theory

  • Similarly to SIT, realistic conflict theory (RCT) sees prejudice as explaining the origins of conflict. RCT argues that conflict arises from social groups competing for resources that only one group can achieve, with ‘out-group’ members viewed through negative stereotypes and treated with hostility during the conflict.
  • RCT also argues that conflict can be reduced by the formation of shared, interdependent goals (goals that have to be worked through together by all groups involved in a conflict). The action of cooperatively working towards a goal reduces negative stereotypes and hostility and thus can resolve the conflict.

Methods of conflict resolution

  • Morton Deutsch argues that constructive processes of resolving conflicts are similar in nature to the cooperative processes used in problem-solving. Deutsch sees cooperative behaviors as leading to constructive resolution of conflicts, with social support essential to creating and maintaining cooperative behaviors.
  • He also sees constructive resolution as likelier when the individuals involved in a conflict can reframe their goals so that they become shared, interdependent ones. This means that the conflict then becomes a joint problem of groups involved in a conflict, so that the success of one group in reaching their goal becomes associated with other groups reaching their goals too.
  • This can only occur if all groups engage in cooperative norms, such as honesty, respect for others, forgiveness, positivity and seeking common ground. These norms are based on shared values of equality. reciprocity (mutual benefits) and nonviolence, which Deutsch believes can create common ground, even between very opposed groups.

Three-step collaborative conflict resolution



1. Recognition that there is a problem

Involves all concerned parties outlining what they think the problem consists of suggesting what they want. with other parties listening.Should occur in a calm and respectful way.

2.Exploration of underlying concerns

Involves all concerned parties outlining their fears, desires and other factors of importance to them. Again other parties listen and a calm respectful environment is required.

3. Creation of mutually agreeable solution

An agreed plan of action that meets the
The concerns of all parties are negotiated. In order to meet all parties concerns, the eventual solution may not match what any party originally wanted,I but will be seen as a win-win solution, not because one party got what it wanted, but because it has addressed the concerns of all in a cooperative and respectful manner.

Interactive conflict resolution: Kelman (2008)

  • The interactive conflict resolution (ICR) approach uses trained conflict managers to resolve disputes between conflicting parties and is especially designed to resolve complex and lengthy disputes.
  1. Talks initially take place with involved parties separately from each other, in order mainly to prepare the parties to be constructive in discussions with the other parties. This occurs in workshops where parties are shown cooperative means of interaction. such as being empathetic, respectful and seeking mutually agreeable goals, and are encouraged to resist negative forms of interaction, such as criticism, hostility, competitiveness and threatening behaviors.
  2. Parties then progress on to discussions with each other, again in workshops supervised bv trained conflict managers and conducted in a structured environment. with agreed norms of behavior. Reasons for the conflict occurring are explored, particularly those concerning threatened needs for recognition, security, autonomy (independence) and justice.
  3. Solutions are sought that meet the needs of all parties through taking part in joint problem-solving. Agreements are reached between the parties themselves, rather than having compromises imposed upon them by conflict managers. This increases the chances of long-term commitment to the resolution by all parties.

Module 6.5: Group dynamics

What will you learn in this section?

  • Definition of Group
  • Cooperation and competition
  • The theory of cooperation and competition: Deutsch (1949b)
  • Evolution and cooperation
  • Game theory

Definition of Group

  • The eminent psychologist John Turner (1982) defined a group as “two or more individuals who see themselves as members of the same social category”.This definition emphasizes the importance of the individual recognizing his or her own group membership in relation to a common social category, that is, family, gender and ethnicity.
  • Brown (2000), however, extends this definition to acknowledge that the existence of any particular group is known to other people, and so he proposes the following: “a group exists when two or more people define themselves as members of it and when its existence is recognized by at least one other”.
  • Group dynamics refers to the processes that occur within a group to which we belong, our ingroup, and also the processes or interactions that occur between the ingroup and an outgroup, known as intergroup processes

Cooperation and competition

  • Cooperation and competition are separate and opposite social situations, where individuals either unite and work together, or oppose and work against each other towards a goal.
  • it is actually very rare to find either occurring without the other, as they tend to perform a contributory influence upon each other in producing behavior. For example, members of a football team cooperate with each other in order to win a game, but compete against each other to see who will be seen as the best player in the team.
  • Competition often requires initial cooperation in setting up rules without which meaningful competition would not be possible. Also, cooperation would not often be the powerful force that it is without the pressure of competition that motivates individuals to cooperate.

The theory of cooperation and competition: Deutsch (1949b)

  • Deutsch proposed that the degree to which members of a group see their goals as being shared affects the way in which those goals are pursued and their chances of success. Cooperation, be argued, led to group processes that produced better outcomes than if individuals competed against each other on their own. Cooperation has positive effects, including effective communication, helpfulness, and coordination of effort. respect, agreement and empathy.
  • Competition has negative effects, including poor communication, obstructiveness, disagreement and conflict. Deutsch therefore saw cooperation as superior, not just in terms of producing better outcomes, but also in producing a more caring and harmonious society.
  • Deutsch saw cooperative and competitive goals as interdependent and the actions taken towards goals as either being effective (ones that increase the chances of an individual achieving their goal) or bungling (ones that decrease an individual’s chances of achieving their goal), with these actions affected by:

1. Substitutability :- the degree to which a person’s actions are able to meet the intentions of another.
2. Cathexis :- how able an individual is to evaluate themselves and their environment.
3. Inducibility :- how ready an individual is to accept the influence of another.334 8 Psychology of human relationships

  • With his Crude Law of Social Relations Deutsch argued that being cooperative tends to lead individuals to being cooperative again in the future and that being competitive leads to more competition. In other words, the effects of cooperating, such as creating more helpfulness and trust between individuals. and the effects of competition. such as poorer communication and increased suspicion of others, are actually the factors that lead to people being cooperative and competitive in the first place.
  • This is an example of a self-reinforcing feedback loop where the effects of something heighten the chances of it happening again repetitively.

Evolution and cooperation

  • At first inspection cooperation does not seem to make sense from an evolutionary viewpoint. Individuals should engage in behaviors that maximize their individual survival and reproduction chances. Cooperation therefore would seem to be a costLy behavior that benefits others, so should not be favored by evolution.
  • However, cooperating with others can benefit the individual, as when we help others it increases the chances that others will help us (a phenomenon known as reciprocal altruism). Also, cooperative behavior often involves working with others whom we are genetically related to, so helping them actually increases the survival and reproduction chances of our own genes, which we share with them (a phenomenon known as kin selection}.
  • Cooperating with others in a group therefore benefits an individual, as group members are better able to work together in competing against other groups for limited resources and this can be seen in warfare, where a cooperative body of warriors (an army) competes against another cooperative body of warriors to gain territory, resources. and so on.
  • The resources cannot be won by one individual, so working together to share them is the best method of securing at least some resources. Cooperation between group members also often involves those who are related to each other, which has an additional evolutionary advantage in line with kin selection theory.
  • Humans have even evolved ways to detect shelters and cheaters. those members of groups who do not contribute fully. or try to maximize their gaining of resources at the expense of other group members. This has led to forms of social punishment, such as group members being ostracized (excluded from the benefits of group membership).

Game theory

  • Game theory is an explanation of social behavior that focuses on how individuals interact cooperatively and competitively in the pursuit of goals. There are two aspects to game theory:
    1)Cooperative game theory :- focuses on how individuals cooperate in groups in competition against other groups to achieve goals.
    2)Non-cooperative game theory :- focuses on how individuals interact to achieve their own goals.
  • Researchers devised a series of games for individuals to play so that they could study human cooperative and competitive behavior and identify; the important factors that influence whether behavior is cooperative or competitive. Such games, like the prisoner’s dilemma, involve allowing players to behave cooperatively or competitively, with different rewards for differing types of behavior.
  • Research identified that in some situations cooperation is favored, while in others competition is favored, with factors such as the personalities of individuals, the level of communication between individuals. size of groups and the level of reciprocal behavior seen as important.Personality also plays a role in that some people always compete, some always cooperate, and some are very conformist because they mirror the behavior of other people, for example, they start out cooperative, but then compete if other people do.The most important finding is that game theory shows that individuals do not always behave in ways that maximize their gaining of rewards. Therefore, human social behavior is not always logical.


  • Effective groups are ones that have cohesion (work together well). Cohesion can be affected by group dynamics of leadership, intergroup relationships (how well group members get on with and work with each other) and role- definition. For example, groups in which members have clearly defined roles will be more effective. This is why sports teams often have clearly defined positions, such as defender, attacker, midfielder, and so on.
  • Group cohesion can be an effect or cause of cooperation between group members and works in two ways:
    a) The total sum of forces binding a group together.
    b) Resistance by the group to disruptive forces.
  • Five measures are usually taken of group cohesiveness bv the use of questionnaires, such as the Group Evaluation Questionnaire:
    1)Measure the degree of interpersonal attraction between group members.
    2)Measure each individual’s desire to remain within the group.
    3)Measure the level of closeness and identification felt by group members.
    4)Measure the attractiveness of the group to individuals.
    5)A combination of 1 to 4 above.
  • Cohesion does not guarantee a cooperative group success and it is often the effective performance of a group that creates more cohesion. Cart-on (1982) pointed out the difference between:
    a) Task cohesion :- how well a cooperative group works as a unit.
    b) Social cohesion :-how well group members like each other and identify with the group.
  • Successful performances rely more on task cohesion, though the relation between cohesion and performance is also dependent on the type of group structure (kind of team} involved. Group structure can either be:
    a) Co-active
    b) Interactive



  1. Relates to situations where members perform the same task at different times and do not require others to be successful for them to be successful,
    e.g. batting at cricket.
  2. Co-active groups can be successful when low cohesion is perceived by group members, as rivalries and the competitive behavior motivated between team members become a spur to success, driving individuals to greater performances.
  1. Relates to situations involving a high degree of work effort, not just the sum of individual efforts, e.g. hockey.
  2. Interactive groups are more successful when high cohesion is perceived bv group members. For such groups, high cohesion is more important than individual skill levels.

Social loafing

  • Ringelmann (1913) found the greater the size of a group, the less effort was put in by individual members. If one person is pulling on a rope they will put in 100 percent effort, if two people are pulling they will put in 93 percent average individual effort, while eight people will put in just 49 per cent individual effort.
  • Some reasons for social loafing concern cohesion; for example. diffusion of responsibility, where decreased effort occurs owing to the lack of identifiability of individual efforts. This barrier to cohesive performance can be addressed by setting group members identifiable individual roles, like monitoring individual performances and giving individual feedback to reinforce good practice. Latane (1980) argued that if individual members are more identifiable, the group situation provides a social incentive, through group cohesion, to perform better.
  • The establishment of set individual roles also addresses the problem of group cohesion hindering performance owing to a loss of individuality within the group and the loss of healthy competition between group members.