Pilivan et al

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Piliavin et al. Subway Samaritan
Earlier happenings and research led to the Piliavin study. For example the kitty Genovese
case where it was noted that out of the 40 people that witnessed her murder (lasting over half
an hour) not one person came to help or tried to call the police. There are also laboratory
experiments that also found that observers of an emergency situation did not intervene.
Piliavin however noted that these lab experiments did not have very high ecological validity
and decided to carry out a field experiment.
The aim of the study was to investigate factors affecting helping behaviours, the factors that
Piliavin et al were particularly interested in were:
type of victim (drunk or ill)
the race of victim (black or white)
the speed of helping
the frequency of helping
the race of the helper
Their field experiment also investigated the impact of the presence of a model (someone who
helps first) and whether there was a correlational relationship between the size of the group
and the frequency of helping.
Diffusion of responsibility: this is the idea that people are less likely to help someone
is there are others present because they perceive responsibility as shared between
everyone that is present ­ they feel less personally responsible
Pluralistic ignorance: this is when people in a group mislead each other about an
emergency situation ­ a person might perceive a situation as a non emergency
because others are remaining calm and not taking action
The sample was large with approx 4450 males and females. The average racial ratio was
45% black 55% white. (Key figures) the researchers picked particular trains because they
made less stops meaning that participants were a captive audience for a longer time span.
Female confederates sat outside the critical area making observations whilst the male model
and victim remained standing. There were 4 students in each team of confederates (2 female
observers, 1 male model and 1 male victim)
The victims were all identically dressed (control), they were always male (control).
38 trails in the drunken condition ­ in the drunken condition the victim smelled of
alcohol and carried a bottle in a brown paper bag.
65 trails in the cane condition ­ sober and carrying a black cane
The models were white males aged 24 ­ 29 they were casually dressed. There was 4
different model conditions:
critical area ­ early: the model stood in the critical area and waited until passing the
4th station to help
critical area ­ late: the model stoop in the critical area waited until passing the 6th

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­ early: the model stood in the adjacent area and waited until passing
the 4th station to help
adjacent area ­ late: the model stood in the adjacent area and waited until after the 6th
station to help
The observations made were:
Total number of passengers who helped along with their race, sex and location
(critical or adjacent)
The race, sex and location of every passenger in the critical and adjacent areas
They also recorded comments and tried to provoke comments from the person sitting…read more

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The model can be used to explain what happened in the study:
Women helped less because the cost of helping was greater ­ more perceived
danger, the cost of not helping is also lower as it is not seen as a woman's `role' so
there will be less self blame etc
Cane carrying condition received more help because the cost of helping is low and
the reward is high
Drunk is helped less because the cost of helping is greater ­ more danger etc and…read more


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