1969 was a year that summed up humanity's highest aspirations. Of course, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, watched by millions and promising a "giant step for mankind". A similar dream was held by many of the 350,000 who attended 3 days of Peace & Music at the Woodstock Festival and the 250,000 who had marched on Washington to protest against the Vietnam War. For a while, it really seemed as if human beings could make the world a better place.
Husband-and-wife teachers Irving and Jane Piliavin were working in New York, retraining as social psychologists. Irv was travelling home on the subway when a drunk rolled off the seat and fell to the floor. Nobody lifted a finger until Irv got up to help. This put the idea into his head of a way of testing helping behaviour in a realistic setting. This is a field experiment, similar to Rosenhan's study of mental hospitals.
an excellent summary of Piliavin's study, with quizzes and links.for
Why not read the original study (in PDF format)?
This site sums up the early lab experiments into helping behaviour
YouTube has a short video that talks you through this study
Psychologists have always been interested in ANTI-SOCIAL and PRO-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR. Why do some people act selfishly and break laws while other people put others' first and behave morally? This became a popular question in 1964 when a young woman named Kitty Genovese was murdered outside her apartment in New York. What made this crime particularly upsetting was that many neighbours heard her screams and cries for help but did nothing to intervene. The New York Times, which reported the story, claimed there were 38 witnesses but none of them even called the police until long after the crime was over.
The story of Kitty Genovese reminded many people of the Bible story of the "Good Samaritan". In this parable, bandits rob a traveller and the victim lies at the side of the road. Other travellers, including very respectable people, pass on by and ignore the victim. Eventually, the most unlikely rescuer comes to the victim's aid: this is a Samaritan, someone who was from a despised ethnic minority. But why did no Good Samaritan help Miss Genovese?
Bibb Latane & John Darley carried out a series of famous lab experiments to find out what situations make people less likely to be ALTRUISTIC. Altruism means acting in a way that benefits someone else when there is some risk or cost to yourself. Their experiments showed that there is a tendency towards BYSTANDER APATHY - this means that people will ignore an emergency when they believe someone else will deal with it instead. The larger the group, the more likely the people in it will display Bystander Apathy - this is called DIFFUSION OF RESPONSIBILITY.
Bibb Latane's experiments were criticised for being very artificial. Irv Piliavin, who was one of Latane's mature students, decided to carry out a study into Diffusion of Responsibility that had a lot more ECOLOGICAL VALIDITY - a field experiment.
Piliavin et al. wanted to see what variables made it more or less likely that someone would help a stranger who collapses in a public place. They were particularly interested in:
Pilivin et al. conducted this field experiment over a two month period, carrying out 103 "trials". They studied passengers on the 8th Avenue subway train in New York on weekdays, between 11am and 3pm. They chose this train because it carried a mixture of black and white passengers and made a 7½ minute journey between stops when nobody could leave the train. They ended up observing 4500 passengers; on average there were 45 people in the carriage at any time and usually 8-9 people in the "critical area" where the emergency took place.
During a trial, a team of 4 students boarded the train. Two girls were observers and took seats outside the critical area. Their job was to note down the behaviour of the other passengers. One of the boys was the Victim who would wait for a minute after the train started then deliberately collapse, lying on his back until help came or the train reached the next station. The other boy was the Model who would wait a while before coming to help the Victim up.
The male students were all in their mid- or late- twenties and always dressed the same. There were four different teams of students, which took it in turns to carry out the trials.
There were several IVs in this experiment:
The observers recorded a lot of things:
There was a big difference between the drunk condition and the cane condition. When it came to spontaneous help (helping before the model acted), the cane-Victim was helped 95% of the time but the drunk-Victim only 50% of the time.
Help was also slower for the drunk-Victim. Without the model, the cane-Victim was usually helped after 5 seconds, whereas the drunk-Victim would lie there for 105 seconds most of the time.
90% of the helpers were males.
In the drunk condition there was a tendency for "same-race" help, with black passengers helping the blackVictim and white passengers helping the white Victim.
The more people there were near the victim, the more likely help was to be given.
In 20% of the trials, people actually left the critical area after the Victim collapsed.
There were more comments in the drunk-condition and where no help was given within 70 seconds. The women passengers made remarks like "It's for the men to help him" or "You feel so bad when you don't know what to do".
Diffusion of Responsibility did not happen. This might be because of the real-life setting or because the passengers could actually see the victim (unlike Latane & Darley's lab experiments).
The other results need some explaining...
Piliavin et al. suggest a theory (they call it a "model") to explain all this behaviour.
This model explains a number of things about the results: