The Psychology of Good and Evil: Why Children, Adults, and Groups Help and Harm Others

By Ervin Staub | Go to book overview

how bad, stupid, and incompetent he is) with corresponding feelings. There is substantial evidence that the way people “speak to themselves, their internal dialogue, affects their behavior (Meichenbaum 1980). Mischel, Ebbesen, and Zeiss (1972, 1973) showed that, with young children at least, whether or not children have in front of them valued material objects that function as rewards, and instructions that lead them to engage in varying cognitive processing of such stimuli, affects their delay of gratification, their capacity to wait for delayed, larger rewards, in contrast to accepting immediate but smaller rewards. Masters and Santrock (1976) demonstrated that asking children to think varied positive or negative thoughts while they were working on tasks affected their persistence, whether these thoughts were relevant to the task itself or not.

I have suggested all along that personal goals are the primary organizers of a person's thinking about, feelings toward, and actions related to the pursuit of varied classes of outcomes. Personal goals provide general orientations. I suggested that ranges of applicability of goals can be different for different people. Schwartz (1977) elaborated a decisional model that is based on the assumption that specific moral norms that people hold will determine whether they behave prosocially on specific occasions (e.g., “It is my obligation to donate blood”). I believe that specific norms are likely to be one determinant of the range of applicability of more general personal goals. While personal goals are more basic and general in their applicability, both would enter into guiding the flow of consciousness. By setting standards of conduct for specific occasions, they will affect self-reinforcement, self-punishment, and other elements of the flow of consciousness which guide people's behavior. The specification of the nature of self-regulation, of the flow of thoughts and feelings and their relationship to conduct, is an important task.


References

Aderman, D., & Berkowitz, L. Observational set, empathy and helping. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1970, 14, 141–148. Brehm, S. S., & Katz, L. B. Empathic observation of an innocent victim: The just world revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1974, 29, 342.

Arnold, M. Emotion and personality. New York: Columbia University Press, 1960.

Bar-Tal, D. Prosocial behavior: Theory and research. Washington, D.C.: Hemisphere Publishing Company, 1976.

Benedict, R. Anthropology and the abnormal. Journal of General Psychology, 1934, 59–82.

Berkowitz, L. Reactance and the unwillingness to help others. Psychological Bulletin, 1973, 79, 310–317.

Bickman, L. The effect of another bystander's ability to help on bystander intervention in an emergency. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 1971, 7, 367380.

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