Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

You are just like me..I like you!

Do we really like ourselves so much that we are more willing to help those who are similar to us?!
The answer is YES.

Various factors influence helping behaviour, for example number of people around, the state of the victim, attractiveness etc (e.g. Emswiller, Deaux, & Willits, 1971).

Emswiller, Deaux and Willits were one of the first once to look at whether correspondence in appearance between helper and helped will increase the rate of helping behavior. In the study students who were walking alone and who fell into one of the four categories (will explain it in a minute) were approached and asked for a small favor. It was hypothesized that dress styles provide a basis for assumptions about other areas of similarity and create a greater willingness to help a similar other.

Design and procedure:

Equal number of one hundred ninety two participants of both sex participated in the experiment. Subjects were chosen according to their sex and the way they were dressed. Classification of the dressing included two types: Straight and Hippie. Criteria for those classified as Hippie were: long hair, beat-up shoes or sandals, jeans, a worn shirt and some type of typical accessory. Criteria for persons classified as Straight were: dress pants for males, skirt or pants suit for females; short or moderate length hair styled in neat fashion; and stylish shoes. When eligible students were spotted they were approached by one of four experimenters (Male Straight, Male Hippie, Female Straight, Female Hippie) and asked to borrow a dime for a telephone call.


A factorial chi-square analysis of 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 design indicated deviations from expected frequency among the 16 cells. There were significant main effects for both sex and type of experimenter, but no significant effects for subject characteristics.

The most important and interesting interaction was that of type of experimenter by type of subject. As it is shown in Table 1, this interaction was highly significant (B*D), meaning that persons are more likely to grant a favor to someone who resembled them in appearance, than to someone different from their type.

Table 2 indicates the percentage of helping responses in each of the 16 conditions.

It was found that Hippie requestors were more likely to receive help than were Straight requesters and surprisingly, male solicitors received more help than did females. There also was a tendency for subjects to help more those of the opposite sex; however this trend did not reach the level of significance.

Some arguments were proposed to explain the fact that males and Hippies were more likely to be helped, for example that level of attractiveness of experimenters played role, or that people expect Hippies to beg for money more often than Straight and therefore are more willing to help. The main result, however, is quite predictable and understandable. We are more likely to help those similar to us. Moreland & Zajonc (1982) found that people who seemed similar to the subjects were regarded as both more likeable and more familiar. Similarity principle works sort of like “halo” effect, which makes us assume that if one aspect is similar the other aspects should also be similar. As we believe that we deserve help, we are of course more likely to help those who are just like us. 


Benson, P. L., Karabenick, S. A., & Lerner, R. M. (1976). Pretty pleases: The effects of physical attractiveness, race, and sex on receiving help. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 12(5), 409-415.

Emswiller, T., Deaux, K., & Willits, J. E. (1971). Similarity, Sex, and Requests for Small Favors1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 1(3), 284-291.

Moreland, R. L., & Zajonc, R. B. (1982). Exposure effects in person perception: Familiarity, similarity, and attraction. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 18(5), 395-415.

Elizaveta Khmelnitskaya

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