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woman (Walton et al., 1988).
Potential helpers also make judgments about whether a victim deserves help. If
we perceive that a person got into a situation through his or her own negligence and is
therefore responsible for his or her own fate, we tend to generate “just-world” thinking
(Lerner & Simmons, 1966). According to the just-world hypothesis, people get what just-world hypothesis
A hypothesis that we believe
they deserve and deserve what they get. This type of thinking often leads us to devalue
people get what they deserve
a person whom we think caused his or her own misfortune (Lerner & Simmons, 1966).
and deserve what they get.
Generally, we give less help to victims we perceive to have contributed to their own
fate than to those we perceive as needy through no fault of their own (Berkowitz, 1969;
Schopler & Matthews, 1965).
However, we may relax this exacting standard if we perceive that the person in need
is highly dependent on our help. In one experiment, subjects received telephone calls
at home in which the caller mistook them for the owner of “Ralphʼs Garage” and told
them that her car had broken down (Gruder, Romer, & Korth, 1978). The caller says
either that she meant to have the car serviced but forgot (help needed due to victimʼs
negligence) or that the car was just serviced (no negligence). In one condition, after the
subject informs the caller that she has not reached Ralphʼs Garage, the caller says that
she has no more change to make another call (high dependency). In another condition,
no mention is made of being out of change. In all conditions the caller asks the subject
to call Ralphʼs Garage for her. The researchers found that subjects were more likely
Social Psychology
422

to help the negligent victim who had no more change than the negligent victim who
presumably had other ways to get help (Figure 11.7). It seems that high dependence
mediates just-world thinking. Regardless of whether the victim deserves what she gets,
we canʼt help but take pity on her.
Just-world thinking also comes into play when we consider the degree to which a
victim contributed to his or her own predicament. If you, as a helper, attribute a vic-
timʼs suffering to his or her own actions (i.e., make an internal attribution), you will be
less likely to help than if you attribute the suffering to some external cause (Schmidt
& Weiner, 1988). When making judgments about individuals in need of help, we take
into account the degree to which the victim had control over his or her fate (Schmidt
& Weiner, 1988). For example, Greg Schmidt and Bernard Weiner (1988) found that
subjects expressed less willingness to help a student in need of class notes if he needed
the notes because he went to the beach instead of class (a controllable situation) than if
he had medically related vision problems that prevented him from taking notes (uncon-
trollable situation).
Why do perceptions of controllability matter? Schmidt and Weiner (1988) reported
that the emotions aroused are important factors in oneʼs reaction to a person in need. If
a victimʼs situation arouses anger, as in the controllable situation, we are less likely to
give help than if the victimʼs situation arouses sympathy (as in the uncontrollable situ-
ation). Apparently, we are quite harsh when it comes to a victim whom we perceive as
having contributed to his or her own plight. We reserve our sympathy for those victims
who had little or no control over their own fates.
In an interesting application of this effect, Weiner and his colleagues (Graham,
Weiner, Giuliano, & Williams, 1993; Weiner, 1993; Weiner, Perry, & Magnusson, 1988)
applied this analysis to victims of various illnesses. Subjects tended to react with pity
(and less anger) toward victims of conditions over which the victims had little control
(Alzheimerʼs disease, cancer). Conversely, subjects tended to react with anger (and




Figure 11.7 The
effect of dependency and
victim fault on helping. In
Gruder™s “Ralph™s Garage”
experiment, participants
were more likely to help a
victim high in dependency
who was at fault for his
predicament.
Based on data from Gruder, Romer, and
Kroth (1974).
Chapter 11 Prosocial Behavior and Altruism 423

less pity) for victims of supposedly controllable conditions (AIDS, obesity; Weiner,
1993; Weiner et al., 1988). The emotion tied to the victimʼs situation (pity versus anger)
mediated willingness to help. Subjects indicated less willingness to help victims with
controllable problems than those with uncontrollable problems (Weiner et al., 1988).
Additionally, subjects assigned greater responsibility to a person with a disease (AIDS)
if the victimʼs behavior was perceived to have contributed to his or her disease than if
the victimʼs behavior was not perceived to have contributed. For example, if a person
with AIDS contracted the disease via a blood transfusion, less responsibility is assigned
to the victim than if the person contracted the disease via a sexual route (Graham
et al., 1993).
Does this concept of the deserving versus the nondeserving victim hold across cul-
tures? In an interesting study conducted by Mullen and Stitka (2000), U.S. and Ukranian
participants were compared. Participants read pro¬les about individuals who needed
organ transplants. Half the individuals were portrayed as having contributed to their
own problems (practicing poor health behaviors), whereas the other half were said to
have their condition because of a genetic disorder. Two other variables were manipu-
lated. One was the degree to which the individual needing the transplant contributed
to society (high or low), and the other was the degree of need for the new organ (i.e.,
95% versus 80% chance of dying if a transplant was not performed). Mullen and Stitka
found clear evidence for a cultural difference in the variables that mediate helping. U.S.
participants mainly based their helping decisions on the degree to which an individual
contributed to his or her own problems. That is, less help is likely to be given to the
person who practiced poor health habits than to the person who suffers from a genetic
disorder. Ukranian participants, on the other hand, placed more weight on oneʼs con-
tributions to society than on the other factors. However, both American and Ukranian
participants were in¬‚uenced by the other variables. U.S. participants were in¬‚uenced
by contribution to society and need, in that order, following personal responsibility.
Ukranian participants also were in¬‚uenced by personal responsibility and need, in that
order, after contributions to society.
There is evidence that characteristics of the helper may interact with perceived
controllability in determining affective responses to victims and helping behavior. In an
analysis of reactions to individuals living in poverty, Zucker and Weiner (1993) found
that politically conservative individuals were likely to blame the victim for being in
poverty, attributing poverty to characteristics of the victim. Consequently, these indi-
viduals tend to react with anger and are less willing to help. On the other hand, more
liberal individuals see poverty as driven by societal forces, not under control of the
victim, and react with pity and are more willing to help.
Finally, social categorization also affects oneʼs decision to help (Levine &
Thompson, 2004; Levine, Cassidy, Brazier, & Reicher, 2002; Levine, Prosser, Evans,
& Reicher, 2005; Sturmer, Snyder, & Omoto, 2005). That is, we are more likely to
help someone in need who is from our “in-group” as opposed to someone from an
“out-group.” In one study that demonstrated this effect, Levine and Thompson (2004)
had participants read two scenarios depicting natural disasters (a ¬‚ood and an earth-
quake). The scenarios depicted disasters of equal severity and elicited similar helping
responses. Each disaster was said to have occurred either in Europe or South America.
Participants were British students enrolled at Lancaster University in England. Levine
and Thompson manipulated the “social identity” of the participants. Some partici-
pants were induced into adopting a “British social identity” and others a more general
“European social identity.” After reading the scenarios, participants were asked the
extent to which they would be willing to help the victims of the natural disasters.
Social Psychology
424

Consistent with the notion that we are more likely to help members of an in-group,
participants who were induced into a European social identity expressed a greater
willingness to help European victims of either disaster than those who adopted the
British social identity. Less help was extended to victims of a South American disaster,
regardless of the identity induced. Thus, members of an out-group were least likely
to be helped. In another experiment Levine et al. (2005) found that soccer fans were
more likely to help someone in need who was wearing their teamʼs jersey than someone
wearing a rival teamʼs jersey.

Race and Helping Behavior
Another characteristic of the victim investigated by social psychologists is race. Are
blacks more or less likely than whites to receive help when they need it? If you base
your answer on stories on television and in the newspapers, you might think that blacks
and whites in our society never help each other. But this is simply not true. Many
blacks risked their lives to save whites during the Los Angeles riots in 1992. A group of
African American residents of South Central Los Angeles helped get Reginald Denny
to the hospital, saving his life. Interracial helping does occur. What does the social
psychological research say about this issue?
A meta-analysis of the literature in this area (Saucier, Miller, & Doucet, 2005)
found that race and helping present a rather complex picture. According to Saucier et
al., the meta-analysis did not show any overall, universal bias against black victims in
need of help. Black and white victims, given the same helping situation, are equally
likely to receive help. However, racial bias did emerge when speci¬c variables were
examined. Most speci¬cally, variables relating to aversive racism (see Chapter 4) did
show bias. Saucier et al. found that blacks are less likely to receive help than whites
under the following conditions:
1. When the help required longer commitments of time
2. When the help was more risky
3. When the help was more dif¬cult
4. When the distance between the helper and victim increased
5. When a white helper could rationalize away nonhelp
In terms of speci¬c studies, there have been numerous studies conducted to inves-
tigate aspects of interracial helping (Benson, Karabenick, & Lerner, 1976; Dovidio &
Gaertner, 1981; Gaertner, Dovidio, & Johnson, 1982). In one, for example, white sub-
jects, assessed as either high or low in prejudice, were given an opportunity to help
either a black or a white victim (Gaertner et al., 1982). The subjects were either alone
(subject and victim) or with four others (three bystanders and the victim). The researchers
recorded the amount of time subjects took to give the victim aid. Their results showed
that white victims were helped more quickly than black victims, especially by prejudiced
subjects, when bystanders were present. Blacks and whites were helped equally quickly
when no bystanders were present. Thus, the bystander effect is stronger for black than
for white victims (Gaertner & Dovidio, 1977; Gaertner et al., 1982).
Given the opportunity to diffuse responsibility, bystanders will avail themselves of
the opportunity more with black than with white victims (Gaertner & Dovidio, 1977)
This may occur because when multiple bystanders are present, a black victim is seen
as less severely injured than a white victim (Gaertner, 1975). When there is a single
bystander, there is no such differential assessment of injury severity (Gaertner, 1975).
Chapter 11 Prosocial Behavior and Altruism 425

Other factors also in¬‚uence the help given to black versus white victims. In another
study, white subjects were given an opportunity to help either a black or white male
(Dovidio & Gaertner, 1981). This person was introduced as the subjectʼs “supervisor”
or “subordinate” and was said to be of either higher or lower cognitive ability than the
subject. When given an opportunity to help, white subjects helped the black subordinate
(lower status) more than the black supervisor (higher status), regardless of the ability
level. However, African American subjects gave help based more on ability than on
status. According to this study, status is relevant in whitesʼ decision to help blacks, with
more help given to lower-status blacks (Dovidio & Gaertner, 1981). Ability is more
relevant in blacksʼ decision to help whites, with more help given to high-ability than
low-ability whites.
The relationship between race and helping behavior is complex and involves
numerous situational factors as well as racial attitudes. A review of the literature by
Crosby, Bromley, and Saxe (1980) found mixed results. These researchers drew three
conclusions:
1. Bias exists against African American victims, but the bias is not extreme. Clear
discrimination against African American victims was reported in 44% of the
studies reviewed; 56% showed no discrimination or reverse discrimination.
2. Whites and blacks discriminate against the opposite race at about the same level.
3. Whites discriminate against black victims more under remote conditions
(over the telephone) than in face-to-face situations.
In another study, researchers investigated race differences in the level of help given
to elderly individuals who lived at home (Morrow-Howell, Lott, & Ozawa, 1990). They
analyzed a program in which volunteers were assigned to help elderly clients shop and
provide them with transportation, counseling, and telephone social support. This study
found very few differences between black and white volunteers. For example, both
black and white volunteers attended training sessions at equal rates and were evaluated
equally by their supervisors.
There was, however, one interesting difference between black and white volunteers
when the race of the client was considered. According to client reports, volunteers who
were of a different race than the client spent less time with clients than did volunteers
of the same race. Additionally, when the volunteer and client were of the same race,
the client reported that there were more home visits and that the volunteer was more
helpful than if the volunteer and client differed in race.
A few cautions are in order here, however. There was no independent measure
of the amount of time volunteers spent with clients or the quality of service rendered.
The data on the volunteersʼ performance were based on client reports. It could be that
same-race clients were simply more inclined to rate their volunteers positively than
were different-race clients. Nevertheless, the study documented a program of helping
in which altruistic tendencies transcended racial barriers.

Sexual Orientation and Helping
The sexual orientation of a person in need in¬‚uences willingness to help (Gore, Tobiasen,
& Kayson, 1997; Shaw, Bourough, & Fink, 1994). For example, Gore and colleagues
(1997) had either a male or female victim make a telephone call to participants. When
the participant answered, the victim made it clear that he or she had dialed the wrong
number. Implied sexual orientation was manipulated by having the victim tell the par-
ticipant that he or she was trying to reach his or her boyfriend or girlfriend. They also
Social Psychology
426

told the participant that they had either used their last quarter (high urgency) or had no
more change (low urgency). Participants were asked to call a number to report the emer-
gency (which was actually the experimenterʼs number). The proportion of participants
who returned the victimʼs call to the experimenter within 60 seconds was the measure
of helping. The results showed that heterosexuals were more likely to get help (80%)
than homosexuals (48%). Additionally, even when homosexuals were helped, it took
longer for the participants to call back than when the victim was heterosexual.



Increasing the Chances of Receiving Help
We have been looking at helping behavior from the point of view of the potential helper.
But what about the person in need of help? Is there anything a victim can do to increase
the chances of being helped? Given all the obstacles along the path of helping, it may
seem a small miracle that anyone ever receives any help. If you are in a position of
needing help, however, there are some things you can do.
First, make your plea for help as loud as possible. Yelling and waving your arms
increase the likelihood that others will notice your plight. Make your plea as clear as
possible. You do not want to leave any room for doubt that you need help. This will
help bystanders correctly label the situation as an emergency.
Next, you want to increase the chances that a bystander will assume responsibility
for helping you. Donʼt count on this happening by itself. Anything you can do to increase
a bystanderʼs personal responsibility for helping will increase your chances of getting
help. Making eye contact is one way to do this; making a direct request is another.
The effectiveness of the direct-request approach was graphically illustrated in a
¬eld experiment in which a confederate of the experimenter approached subjects on a
beach (Moriarty, 1975). In one condition, the confederate asked the subject to watch his
things (a blanket and a radio) while the confederate went to the boardwalk for a minute
(the subject is given responsibility for helping). In another condition, the confederate
simply asked the subject for a match (social contact, but no responsibility). A short time
after the confederate left, a second confederate came along and took the radio and ran
off. More subjects helped in the personal-responsibility condition (some actually ran
the second confederate down) than in the nonresponsibility condition. Thus, making
someone personally responsible for helping increases helping.



Courageous Resistance and Heroism
A vast majority of research on altruism in social psychology has focused on helping in
emergency situations. Typically, this type of help requires an immediate decision to a
speci¬c situation. However, not all helping falls into this category. There are helping
situations that may involve nonemergencies (e.g., volunteering in a hospital) and may
courageous resistance require a more deliberative decision than is required in an emergency situation. For
Sel¬‚ess behavior involving risk example, if you are trying to decide whether to volunteer your time for a certain cause,
to a helper (and/or family) you may take time to consider all aspects of your decision. One category of such
that is sustained over time, is
helping is called courageous resistance (Shepela et al., 1999). According to Shepela

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