Author

Guy Begin

Date of Award

10-1975

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Supervisor

Professor D.W. Carment

Abstract

During the past decade a large number of studies on altruism and helping behaviour have been carried out. Among these, however, are only a handful of experiments which deal with the effects of success or failure on helping behaviour. This dissertation reports the results of a series of eleven experiments on this topic carried out using male and female university students.

The first of these studies indicated that subjects who had failed on a motor task subsequently helped the experimenter more than subjects who has either succeeded or were controls. These findings contradicted previous research which had found that subjects who experienced success helped more than subjects who experienced failure.

Additional experiments designed to clarify this conflict, revealed that our findings were reliable as long as the subject and the experimenter were of the same sex. Under these conditions, failure subjects helped the experimenter more than success subjects. However, when the subject and the experimenter were of the opposite sex, a partial reversal was obtained. Success subjects then helped the experimenter more than failure subjects. This however could not, by itself, account for the apparently contradictory results since previous researchers had generally used both males and females as subjects eventhough only one confederate (either male or female) was used to request help.

Subsequent studies in this series clearly demonstrated that whether the person requesting or needing help was the same or a different experimenter who was aware or unaware of the subject's prior performance on the task was the major factor which could account for the apparently conflicting findings. In general, the findings indicate that failure helps more if the person requesting help knows that the subject has failed.

Throughout this research a wide variety of dependent and independent variables were employed and the initial results were repeatedly replicated. In other words, these findings are robust.

An "image-repair" motive is suggested to account for the findings that failure subjects helped a person who knew of their prior performance more than control subjects, who, in turn, helped such a person more than success subjects. The "warm glow of success" (Isen, 1970) hypothesis is recognized as still being the best explanation of the finding that success subjects helped a person who did not know of their prior performance more than control subjects, who, in turn, generally helped such a person more than failure subjects.

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