Like many of us know, getting people to take part in your study can be a challenge! For my dissertation, I needed 200+ people to fill out my questionnaire, but as my survey was so long, it was difficult to find people willing to invest the time and effort into something that was not important to them.
That was until I came across survey-sharing groups on Facebook. In these group, students post the links to their surveys, asking for people to fill it out. When people complete it, they comment on the post with their own questionnaire. Usually, people complete other people’s in return. This is due to the norm of reciprocity: when people do something for you, you feel obliged to give something back in return, otherwise it can result in feelings of guilt (Cialdini, 1993). So I continued filling out other people’s surveys and enjoyed seeing my total number of participants increase as people returned the favour.
However, there were some people in the group who no longer needed participants, yet they were still filling out other people’s surveys. The willingness to continue helping can be explained through the concept of social group membership, in which all members have shared traits: we have all been to university, we have all been in the position of needing participants, we have all experienced the same struggle. This shared identity makes us an ingroup. Research has found that people are much more likely to help someone in need if they identify themselves as part of the same group as them (Levine, Prosser, Evans, & Reicher, 2005). This finding explains why those who no longer needed participants were still willing to help the rest of us out.
Thanks to these behavioural influences, recruiting participants was not as difficult as it initially seemed!
Cialdini, R. B. (1993). Influence: Science and practice (3rd ed.). Glenview, IL: Scott Foresman.