Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Professor D.W. Carment


The recipient of aid has, until recently, been given scant attention by researchers. In view of the paucity of recipient-related-literature, the present research investigated a number of situational determinants of response to aid. Six experiments, one using a task-performance setting and the others using a choice-setting involving the Altruism matrix, were reported.

The following paradigm was adopted: in a prior situation, the potential recipient was offered help of varying magnitude, usually by a confederate, along with a manipulation of the relevant independent variable. The recipient's reactions were observed. In a subsequent situation, donor-recipient roles were reversed, and the behaviour of the potential donor (former recipient) was observed.

Results from the present research indicate that, in settings like the one used here, subjects who receive prior help are more likely to give later help than subjects who receive no prior help. However, the likelihood of later help is reduced if the former donor subsequent communicates even an indirect need for help.

Given that a donor offers help independently of the recipient's responses, potential recipients accept more help if they anticipate a later opportunity to return it than if they are unaware of such an opportunity. When the later opportunity arises, they return more help if they had expected it than if they had not expected it. Recipients also accept, and subsequently return more help when the donor offers a large amount of help than when he offers a small amount of help. When the donor states an intention to give a specific amount of help, and then carries out or does not carry out this intention, the recipient's acceptance tends to be in accordance with the stated intention while the subsequent amount of help returned tends to be in accordance with the amount of help actually received from the donor in the prior situation. When the donor states this intention along with or without a condition, the recipient tends to accept more help generally in the 'conditional' situation than in the 'unconditional' situation, but subsequenlty returns more help in the latter than in the former condition.

It is also observed that with a person of the same sex males accept and later return more help than females.

These findings can be interpreted in terms of the reciprocity norm, equity, indebtedness, psychological reactance, and possibly a perception of the donor's willingness or reluctance to offer help. The sex differences obtained here can be explained in terms of possible motivational differences between males and females in the situation.

In addition to providing evidence on some factors that have been found to effect recipient reactions, the present research makes at least two contributions to the field. First, it makes a methodological contribution by demonstrating that a choice-setting with the appropriate reward structure can be utilized to study the recipient of help. The Altruism matrix employed in this research is a useful alternative to the task-performance setting conventionally used in the field of helping behaviour. Secondly, this research reveals a consistency between behaviour in various settings. The recipient reactions (for example, reciprocation) obtained with the Altruism matrix are mostly in agreement with findings from other task-performance studies, as well with findings from a number of choice-setting studies that are traditionally used for the study of cooperation and competition. Broadly, this points to a common thread of social-exchange principles running through these settings.

With the availability of more information on the recipient, it would eventually become possible to formulate general principles regarding reactions to help, and to apply such principles, where feasible, to social and international aid programs.

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