Who Will Help You?

Published 16 May 2017

If you fell off a bike, or be run over by a car, who would help you? Chances are there wouldn’t be anybody to help you. But don’t equate it with hostile people; most of the “not helping” incidents are actually effects of people deciding whether or not to help. The time that should have devoted to helping were spent on contemplating to help or not.

In the Moriarty study, it was found out that commitment to the victims before the incident(s) (e.g. burglary, murder) will mostly determine whether or not people will you. Two experiments were conducted in the study. The first experiment was done in the Jones Beach, New York where cases of thefts were staged. The results showed that only 23 out of the 40 subjects who noticed the theft were responsive and tried to catch the thief. Meanwhile, the second experiment was done in two Automat eateries. The results showed that nine (56%) out of the 16 subjects who noticed the theft was responsive to the robbery.

The results of the two experiments showed that people who have had prior contact with the victim will usually respond. This prior commitment to the victim, if the need should arise, was termed as “prior decision”. One of the reasons of helping is because they feel personally responsible, if only little. The second is that the subject appreciates the trust put in him by the victim. Another is because the subject may feel psychological dissonance if his/her overt behavior does not comply with his/her spoken statements. And the last reason is to avoid being blamed for letting the incident happen (Moriarty, 1975, p. 376).
(please insert how experiment was performed here)

In the experiment, nine out of the ten subjects looked at the stimulus person. In the no physical contact (NPC) condition, only one subject out of the five did not look at the stimulus person while all the subjects in the direct physical contact (DPC) condition looked. The one who did not look was a female. This might be due to several or a combination of reasons. One reason might be because there was no direct physical contact involved, the subject had no reason to look at stimulus generator.

Except for the one who ignored the stimulus person, all other subjects helped. Everybody in the DPC condition helped the subjects while only one in the NPC condition did not help the subject. Six out of the ten subjects spoke to the stimulus generator. Only one out of the five DPC subjects did not speak to the stimulus person. In the NPC condition, three out of the five subjects did not speak to the stimulus person as they were picking up the books. One of the reason for this was because the stimulus person was a female and the subject was also a female as females do not tend to help other females. Another one might be because the subject, in the first place, was already ignored.

The subjects in the DPC conditions were also recorded to be friendlier than the subjects in the NPC condition. In the DPC condition, four out of five subjects were friendly while in the NPC condition, only two out of the five subjects were friendly.

If the direct contact prior to the “accident” be interpreted as a prior commitment to the stimulus person, then the data supports the hypothesis that persons with commitment to the victim/subject prior to the incident has tendency to help the victim/subject. All the DPC persons helped the subject to pick up her books. On the other hand, not all of the subjects in the NPC condition picked up the stimulus person’s books. If the direct contact is interpreted as a prior commitment to the victim, then we could say that the subjects in the DPC condition helped because of the reasons cited above by Moriarty.

There were also differences between males and females helping out the victims however, the difference is not significant as there was only one person, a female, who did not help the stimulus person.

Out of all the persons who helped the stimulus person, six of them

The study was not able to utilize a male stimulus person so observing whether males tended to help other males more or vice versa is not applicable. However, it was observed that both males and females help females. It was further observed that of the six persons who spoke to the stimulus person, four of them were males.

The hypothesis of this study does not completely refute that of Moriarty’s however it also does not completely agree with it. One of the alternative hypotheses the study proposes is that the help extended will also be in contrast to the amount of effort to be exerted by the subject. That is to say, the more effort the subject will have to exert, the less the possibility of the compliance with the request. For example, if the subject is asked to pick up a book in front of him, it is likely that s/he will pick it up. However, if a subject is asked to pick up a book that was dropped somewhere in the room, it is likely that the subject will think about it first.

Another criterion is the degree of favor to be asked from the subject. If, for example, a subject was asked to pick up a book in front of him, then the subject is most likely to respond positively to the request. If, for example however, the subject was asked to pursue a suspect in a robbery, as was the case in the second, it is more likely that the subject will negatively respond to the request. The experiment conducted in this study showed a 90% rate of success as opposed to Moriarty’s second experiment which showed only 56% rate of success.

And the third criterion is whether or not the subject is alone or with somebody. There might be different results if the subject were all by himself than if say the subject were with his gang members or his/her girl/boyfriend.

There may also be other variables not taken into consideration while making this study. The use of male stimulus person was one and this study further recommends that another study be made utilizing a male stimulus person. It is also recommended that this study and the proposed study be counter evaluated to produce a more accurate result in relation to the same sex or opposite sex functions of this study.

Another variable that might have affected this study is that other people in the test may have passed by before an earlier test was being conducted. That is, a subject has already seen the test before and is already conscious of the on-going test. The subject was already sensitized to the test and has therefore produced the desired effects, or at least the perceived desired effects, of the experimenters. The test the subject has previously seen may or may not be the ones conducted by this study. The subject may have passed other studies, like the experiment in this study, conducted by other groups. The subject may then be sensitized to the study conducted on this experiment.


  • Moriarty, Thomas. (1975) Crime, commitment and the responsive bystander: two field experiments. Journal of Personality and Social Pschology, Volume 31 (2), pages 370-376.
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