Piliavin summary sheet

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  • Created on: 07-05-10 16:17
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Name of study: Good samaritanism: an underground phenomenon?
Author(s): Piliavin, Piliavin, Rodin
Approach: Social Approach
Background information (what theories/issues of previous research is the study based on?)
The behaviour of bystanders following the case of the brutal murder of Kitty Genovese in New York in 1964.
The murder attracted interest from psychologists because according to the press not one person out of the 40
people, who witnessed the attack lasting over half an hour, tried to help or contacted the police.
Many laboratory studies were carried out by social psychologists to test bystander apathy. (That is the
phenomenon of when observers of an emergency situation do not intervene).
Importantly social psychologists looked for the cause of bystander behaviour not in the type of people who do or
do not help but in the situational factors which influence helping behaviour.
The early laboratory experiments into bystander apathy consisted of candid camera/trigger happy style scenarios
where people were placed in situations such as a smoke filled room to investigate if people would sound the alarm
or not. (e.g. Latane and Darley 1968).
These experiments usually consisted of one participant and a number of confederates.
One of the findings of such laboratory experiments was that people did demonstrate diffusion of responsibility.
(That is they were less likely to help as the number of bystanders increased).
However Piliavin et al. recognised that these laboratory experiments lacked ecological validity in that they did not
demonstrate how people would react in a realistic situation.
They therefore planned to investigate helping behaviour using a field experiment where they could observe
behaviour as it is in the real everyday world.
What were the aims and hypotheses of this study?
To investigate factors affecting helping behaviour:
Type of Victim (ill/drunk).
Race of the victim (black/white) research suggests that people are likely to help someone of their own race.
Impact of modelling research suggests people who see someone else displaying the behaviour in an emergency
situation, they're more likely to help.
Group size research has shown increased group size has led to decrease lf frequency of responding in latency.
What were the IV+DV / IV's? (where appropriate e.g. in experimental research only)
Independent Variables:
Victim ­ drunk (carried a bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag and smelt of alcohol) or ill (carried a cane).
Victim ­ black or white.
Model intervened after 70 or 150 seconds or no model.
Group size.
Dependent Variable:
Helping behaviour

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What research method was used?
Field Experiment
List the advantages and disadvantages of the method used?
Advantages Disadvantages
A main strength of the study has to be its high level of Less control of the environment so can't eliminate
ecological validity. The study was done in a true to life extraneous variables ­ difficult to establish cause and
environment and consisted of an incident, which could and effect relationships. E.g. one extraneous variable could be
does happen.…read more

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The four victims (one from each team) were males, aged between 26 and 35, three white, one black, all identically
dressed in Eisenhower jackets, old slacks and no tie.
On 38 trials the victims smelled of alcohol and carried a bottle of alcohol wrapped in a brown bag (drunk condition).
65 trials they appeared sober and carried a black cane (cane condition).
In all other aspects, victims behaved identically in the two conditions, and each victim participated in drunk and cane
trials.…read more

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The train: made sure it was 7.5 min train.
List the findings:
The frequency of helping behaviour was considerably higher than found in previous lab experiments.
An apparently ill person is more likely to receive help (62/65 ­ 95%) than one who appears drunk (19/38 ­ 50%)
and help is forthcoming more quickly.
60% (49/81) trials the victim was given help by two or more helpers.
20% of all trials, with and without model ­ 34 people left the critical area.…read more

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A person who is ill is more likely to be given aid Drunk: high (greater disgust). Drunk: low (less disapproval
than one who appears drunk. because victim to blame for own
Men are more likely to help than women Women: high (danger). Women: low (not a woman's
Some tendency for same-race helping, especially in Opposite race: high (more Same race: higher (disapproval
the drunk condition. fear if different race). for not helping your own).…read more

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What evaluation issues relate to this study and why?
Must include:
Methodology: Field Experiment
Strength Weakness
High ecological validity because it was conducted in a real There is a lack of control so we can't establish cause and
life setting on a train. This means the results will be more effect relationships. People may have seen the incident
generalisable to real life situations. more than once so become suspicious. They can't control
who gets on the train each time.…read more

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Less time means may work out to be cheaper as less Only a glimpse of the participants which may lead to false
money needed because it isn't going to be replicated impressions.
many times.
Greater levels of precision in control and measurement. The participants may not be their true selves due to certain
factors e.g. mood, environment, people. Not be able to
find out why behaviour occurred.…read more

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It is likely that The study could also 4450. This is a large of responsibility. This
the participants had take place between sample size and so is could be due to the
observed the larger timeframes e.g. fairly representative. participants only
incident more than 9am and 5pm to ensure Fewer than this would being exposed to the
once which could a wide variety of make the results less incident only once,
have led to demand participants e.g. representative. and so may not show
characteristics.…read more


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