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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
BELL, S. L. (2006). Diffusion of Responsibility: Are Sexes More Likely to Help the Same Sex or the Opposite Sex?. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 9. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved December 6, 2023 .

Diffusion of Responsibility: Are Sexes More Likely to Help the Same Sex or the Opposite Sex?

Sponsored by: PATRICIA MARSH (pmarsh1@missouriwestern.edu)
The purpose of this study is to compare the differences in helping behaviors between males and females. The study looks at which sex is more likely to help the same sex or the opposite sex in a non-emergency situation. The hypothesis is that more participants will help a female confederate more than a male confederate. The results show no significance due to the lack of participants and the lack of helping altogether.

Diffusion of responsibility became very popular in 1964 when Kitty Genovese was attacked in Queens, New York. More than 30 people watched from their windows while she was being attacked, yet no one called the police or came to her rescue. Many studies were conducted to find out why no one helped and what caused the diffusion of responsibility. In order to conduct any experiment there were many questions that needed to be asked. For example, who is helping, why are they helping, and what can influence helping behaviors such as the characteristics of the person themselves, the environment, or society? There are many norms in our society that clue us in on when to help someone. The first is the social responsibility norm (“When do people help,” 2006). This tells us that we should "help others who really need it, without regard to future exchanges.” On the other hand, we have a norm that states that human interactions are transactions that aim to maximize the rewards someone can receive and minimize the cost. This is called the social exchange theory. In addition, the reciprocity norm states that we should help the people who have helped us in the past. Lastly, altruism is defined as having concern and helping others when there are no expectations for something in return. However, there are many more variables that play into the diffusion of responsibility such the sex of the person helping and the sex of who they are helping. ("When do people help," 2006). Phyllis Senneker and Clyde Hendrick (1983) conducted a study that looked at androgyny and helping behaviors. Their subjects were placed in a cubical and told they were going to participate in a group discussion. However, the other people in the group were actually prerecorded. During the discussion the actual participant heard another person in the group start to choke on food. There was a struggle for breath, a cry for help, and then silence. The independent variable was the sex of the participants, sex typing of the participants (androgynous vs. sex typed), and the sex composition and size of the bystander group. They conducted a 2 (sex of participant) x 2 (sex-typing of participant) x 3 (bystander conditions) between subject factorial design. Their major dependent variable was the speed of the responses and whether the participants offered indirect, direct, or no help. To clarify by what they mean a direct, they define it as going to the victim`s door to help them. The experimenter marked the door very well and it was in one direction of the participant`s door. They defined indirect help as the participant going to the experimenter to get help. The experimenter`s door was well marked and in the other direction of the participant`s door. They used 78 male and 82 female college students. They gave the BSRI to 554 students to get information of sex typing of participants. Sex-typing is a measurement of masculinity and femininity independent of actual sex. There are four classifications for sex-typing as follows:1) Androgyny: This is having a high, yet balanced level of both masculinity a femininity2) Masculine sex-type: This is having a high level of masculinity and a low level of femininity.3) Feminine sex-type: This is having a low level of masculinity and a high level of femininity.4) Undifferentiated sex-type: This is having a low level of both masculinity and femininity.They had 76 androgynous and 84 sex-typed participants. Half of the participants went in to one of the three experimental conditions. They also had to replace 33 subjects because they didn`t believe the emergency. They had a believability rating of 83%. The researcher had three hypotheses: 1. Both male and female participants would decrease their helping behavior in six-person groups compared with two-person groups.2. Males would offer more direct help than indirect help as compared with females.3. For sex-typed participants only, males would increase helping behavior in a mixed sex condition, while females would decrease helping behaviors in a mixed sex condition. Senneker and Hendrick found that there were three significant main effects, but no interaction. The main effect for sex was that males had faster response times than females. Participants also responded more slowly in the six-person group compared with the two-person group. The main effect for androgynous subjects indicated that students scoring higher on this scale had significantly faster mean response times than did sex-typed subjects. They found that 69% of androgynous males offered to help the victim. Of those who offered help 61% offered direct help the rest offered indirect help. Their research suggests that sex-typing has no effect on the diffusion of responsibility.Senneker and Hendrick also state that more males offered both indirect and direct help but it was only a marginal difference. They further conclude that the size of the group does play a part in the diffusion of responsibility. The more people that are around the less chance someone will help another person. In another study, conducted by Ahmed (1979), sex differences in helping behaviors were also looked at. This time, social norms played a role in how he formed his hypotheses. Ahmed’s study used motorists who needed help on the side of the road. His hypotheses were as followed: "1. More motorists will help on a lonely more than on a busy road 2. More motorists will help in sunny weather more than in rainy weather 3. More motorists will help a female victim more than a male victim in all conditions” (p. 153). Ahmed states that the last hypothesis is due to the conformity to social norms. For example, individuals are taught to help females more than males. Little boys are taught from a young age that girls are fragile and they need a man to protect them and that it is the man’s job to do so. He adds, "recent researchers do not substantiate this idea” (p.153). A 2 (lonely vs. busy) x 2 (sunny vs. rainy) x 2 (sex of the confederates) design was used. Ahmed conducted the study in the months of September and October. The study consisted of the confederates pretending to be broke down on the side of the road. The confederates were to wave down the cars that were passing them. This was done on a busy highway as well as on a lonely road. It was also conducted in the rain and on sunny days on both the busy and lonely roads. The experiments occurred in time blocks of ten minutes between the hours of noon and 4p.m. In the rainy conditions, the confederate did not start trying to get help until he/she was completely wet. In addition, the experimenter was hidden at all times to control for the passing motorists thinking someone was there helping the victim already. The experimenter was just there to observe and record data. The experimenter found that more motorists helped on the lonely road more than the busy one. The analysis show that the mean of cars passing before someone stopped to help was 9.30 on the lonely road and 30.80 on the busy road. Although fewer cars stopped to help on the busy road, when they did stop, people offered help immediately. Ahmed adds that help was received sooner on the busy road, because of the heavy traffic. On a busy road, 30 cars can pass you in a matter of minutes, while on a lonely road it could take an hour before 9 cars pass you.The analysis show that both males and females were helped more in sunny weather compared to rainy weather. The mean number of cars that passed before someone stopped to help was 8.77 on the sunny days and 21.89 during the rainy weather. He found that females received more help than any other group and that a victim on a lonely raid and on a sunny day received more help. The fist two hypotheses were confirmed, however their third was not. The failure of the third hypothesis was explained by changing norms. The women`s liberation movement changed the image of women, in which they are no longer seen as fragile or weak. This changing norm reduces the likelihood that people will stop to help a woman. Levy et al (1972) used 55 male participants and 55 female participants in his demand-without-threat situation study. This is a situation where someone is demanding something such as entry into a room, but there is no threat made to the individual that the demand is given to. An equal number of males and females were assigned to each treatment group, which are described below. They used zero, one, or two confederates in each group also. They had four treatments, which are as follows: A). a series of seven increasingly demanding requests for entry into the experimental room where the subjects were. B). a series of nine demands with the same intensities with the intruder knocking on the door three times with each demand. C). a series of nine calls into the room, through and intercom, asking for the experimenter. D). a series of knocks on the door, however the confederate will acknowledge the intrusion but do not respond to the intruder. In all the treatments, except treatment D, the confederate does not acknowledge any notice of the intrusion. The confederates in their studies were the same sex as the subjects, the experimenter was the opposite sex, and the intruder was male. The participants were led into a room to complete a math test that was timed for ten minutes. Then the experimenter left the room, and five minutes later the intruder would try to enter the room. Levy et al. states "the main results of this experiment deal with response latency scores as they relate to the three factors of the experimental design, namely, the three social situations (alone, with one other, or with two others); the four intrusion treatment conditions; and sex of subject" (p. 168). They analyzed the response latency scores in two ways, the chi-square tests of association and analysis of variance. The chi-square analysis found significance for treatments A & C, and A, B & C combined. There was not significance for treatment B, but it was added that it was heading toward a negative finding of significance. There was a pattern of association between the number of people present in a calm, yet demanding situation and the probability that a person will react to that situation. They also found that the strongest effect was the social situation. The statistics show the response latencies were lowest for the participants who were alone. Then the participants with one confederate had a little higher response latencies, and the participants who had two confederates present in their group had the highest response latency. This suggests that when there is others present to witness the helping behavior in progress the response latency is better. This also relates to the social exchange theory. The participants were helping when they knew it made them look better than the other participants. The participants maximized their rewards by making their selves feel better about themselves and making them look better to the people that surrounded them. Latane and Darley conducted many experiments concerning the diffusion of responsibility. From their studies they concluded that there were three psychological processes that influence helping behaviors, they are as follows: 1) The individual must recognize the need for help and feel competent enough to help.2) The victim must be viewed as deserving of help.3) If the individual thinks others are present and available to help, the individual is likely to diffuse the responsibility to help (as cited in Cacioppo, Petty, & Losch, 1986).The current study deals with the diffusion of responsibility and the differences in helping behaviors between males and females. The study is looking at which sex is more likely to help the same sex or the opposite sex in a non-emergency situation. The hypothesis is that more participants will help a female confederate more that a male confederate.

Participants Approximately 100 students enrolled in a general psychology class at a small Midwest university participated in this study. The participants mean age was 22; the mean year in school was freshman, and there were 18 Caucasian, 3 African American, and 1 Hispanic who participated in this study.Materials The short story, “The Stand-In,” by C. Dennis Moore was given to the participants along with a 5-item quiz about the story. Confederates were also used, both a male and a female. The study also needed a stack of papers and books (props) that was used by the confederate and dropped on the floor to see if the participants helped pick them up. There were three books that were bought at the Universities book stare and a large stack of old handouts that belonged to the experimenter, but had no names on the papers.Procedure Participants were randomly assigned to two groups, half with a male confederate and the other half with a female confederate. The groups varied in size; from one participant to seven participants, not counting the confederate. Each group had an equal number of men and women participants. The confederate was sitting toward the front of the room with the participants sitting on either side in equal numbers. For example, in a group with six participants there were three participants on each side of the confederate. The participants were given a number based on where they are sitting at the table. Only the experimenter and the confederates knew about the numbered seats. The participants were told the study was about memory and how it differed between the sexes. The participants were also informed that they had fifteen minutes to read the story and if they were not through reading the story in the fifteen minutes they would not be counted off for the questions on the quiz they could not answer. They were also told that the experimenter would not be in the room while they were reading. After the instructions were read the stories were handed out and the experimenter left the room. Fifteen minutes later the experimenter came back into the room and announce that the wrong stack of papers were picked up and the quizzes still needed to be copied off. The experimenter walked over to the podium in the front of the room and grabbed another stack of paper and then leaves the room once again. Approximately 1-2 minutes after the experimenter left for the second time the confederate stood up and announced that he/she is late for an appointment and must leave. While turning around to leave the confederate tripped on the leg of the chair and dropped all the books and papers in their hands. The confederate did not fall all the way to the ground, they just tripped and stumbled. Once the books and papers were picked up the confederate met the experimenter in the Psychology Department Office. If a participant helped their number was given to the experimenter and the experimenter would then re-enter the room and administer the quizzes. The participants were told that the copier machine was having problems to explain for the long period of time between when the experimenter left and when the experimenter returned. Once the participants were finished with the quiz they were asked to leave them on the table where they were sitting and they were dismissed. The same male and female confederates were used throughout the course of the study to insure there was no change in participant’s helpfulness due to the different looks of the confederate. To control for subject bias the participant were debriefed in the form of an e-mail letter after the entire study was finished. The names of the participants were given to their instructor so extra credit can be given.

A chi-square analysis was run to test the hypothesis that participants would help a female confederate more than a male confederate the chi-square analysis showed that there were no significant differences between the helping behaviors of the participants (see Table 1). This is because the majority of the participants were not helping at all. Only a few participants helped (n=3) or showed concern (n=3). A univariate analysis of variance was conducted to look at the between subject effect of the sex of the confederate and the sex of the participant on the dependent variable of helping behaviors. This analysis showed that there were no significant main effects or interactions between the groups. There was not an equal amount of male and female participants in the two groups and within the two groups there was a lack of male participants. An increase in participants may provide a significant finding, especially if the female confederate group had more males in the smaller groups. Another chi-square analysis was run to compare the sex of the confederate and helping behaviors. This also showed no significant differences between the groups. Altogether, there was a lack of helping, but of those who did help, there was a fairly equal distribution between eh two confederate. Finally the participant’s year in school, age, and race/ethnicity were compared to helping behaviors using a chi-square analyses. Each chi-square showed no statistical difference. This is because there was a lack of participants. A lack of diversity could also be another culprit. Participants were taken from a small, Midwestern universities general psychology class. This is made up of mostly freshman and lacks diversity.

The hypothesis that participants will help the female confederate more than male confederate was not supported by this collection of data. There were many things that could have attributed to this. The main attributing factor was that there was a lack of participants to participate in the study. If more data was collected, the results could be affected. With the current collection of data the male confederate was actually getting more people to react to the situation whereas the female confederate had more participants physical help her pick up the books and papers. It would be interesting to see if the data keeps heading in the current direction. There was also a lack of diversity among the students who participated in the study. They were in a small psychology 101 class and mostly freshman. This affected the statistical outcome of the differences of race/ethnicity, age, and year in school on helping behaviors. Most of the students were Caucasian and the average age was 22 years old. In future research projects, experimenter should be sure to have diversity in their study to see if race or age has an effect on the diffusion of responsibility.Latane and Darley described the three psychological processes that influence helping behavior; among those was that the individual must recognize the need for help. Many participants probably did not see a need to help pick up the books and papers. The situation was not strenuous enough on the confederate for the participant to exert energy when they were not getting anything in return. If the confederate would have actually fallen, there could have been an increase in helping behavior due to the fact that the confederate could have hurt themselves and more people would have shown concern. In future studies, I would run a study using different situations to see which situation is the best at receiving a helping behavior and how serious must the situation be to get someone to help. The group sizes also affected the statistical outcome as Senneker and Hendrick also concluded. The male confederate ended up with more male participants in the smaller groups, whereas the female confederate only had male participant in a large group. Just the fact that there is a large group of people decreases the likelihood of helping behaviors. If there had been more males in a small female confederate group there would have likely been a significant difference and an increase in helping behaviors.One group figured out the actual purpose of the study and yet they still did not help. There was an extreme lack of helping behaviors among all participants in all groups; small and large. For further research into the subject, one should look at helping behaviors in small groups of one to two people to see if the trend is changing from putting the responsibility on one’s self because others are not there to assist to just acknowledging the situation and letting the person in need handle it by themselves as participants have done in the current study.

Ahmed, S.M.S. (1979). Helping behaviors as predicted by diffusion of responsibility, exchange theory, and traditional sex norms. Journal of Social Psychology, 109, 153-154.Cacioppo, J., Petty, R., & Losch, M. (1986). Attributions of responsibility for helping and doing harm: Evidence for confusion of responsibility. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 100-105.Levy, P., Lundgren, D., Ansel, M., Fell, D., Fink, B., & McGrath, J.E. (1972). Bystander effect in a demand-without-threat situation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 24, 166-171.Senneker, P., & Hendrick, C. (1983). Androgyny and helping behaviors. Journal or Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 916-925.When Do People Help. (n.d.). Retrieved January 20, 2006, from http://www.rpi.edu/~verwyc/oh12.htm


Submitted 5/8/2006 10:51:44 AM
Last Edited 5/8/2006 11:14:32 AM
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