Fear of Negative Evaluation Affects Helping Behavior: The Bystander Effect Revisited

By Karakashian, Lori M.; Walter, Mark I. et al. | North American Journal of Psychology, March-April 2006 | Go to article overview

Fear of Negative Evaluation Affects Helping Behavior: The Bystander Effect Revisited


Karakashian, Lori M., Walter, Mark I., Christopher, Andrew N., Lucas, Todd, North American Journal of Psychology


The effect of shyness and fear of negative evaluation (FNE) on helping behavior was examined. Eighty-three students participated in the experiment. Their individual shyness, FNE, and self-monitoring scores were collected prior to participation. During the experiment, participants had the opportunity to help a female confederate in either a social or non-social situation. An interaction of FNE and condition was found to be marginally significant. In the social helping condition, participants who helped showed no difference in FNE scores versus those who did not help. However, in the non-social condition participants who helped had lower FNE scores than those who did not help. The findings are framed in accordance with the bystander effect. A marginally significant interaction of gender and condition was also discovered. Males helped at the same rate as females in the non-social condition, but helped more than females in the social condition. This provides support for the social role theory of helping, based on the socially conditioned mores that a man should help a woman in need.

There is extensive research on shyness, fear of negative evaluation (FNE), and helping behavior as individual topics, but very limited knowledge concerning how these constructs are interrelated. Because shyness, FNE, and helping behavior are prevalent in many facets of everyday life, it is important to investigate the relationship between these variables. In the present study, the effects of shyness and fear of negative evaluation on the likelihood of offering help were examined within a self-presentational paradigm.

Shyness and Fear of Negative Evaluation

Shyness, defined by Pilkonis (1977) as "a tendency to avoid social interactions and to fail to participate appropriately in social situations" (p. 596), is a feeling that has been experienced by the majority of the population at some point in their lives. Much research has been devoted to understanding this common phenomenon through a self-presentational model. The main hypothesis of this model is that shy people are prone to anxious self-preoccupation when they are in social situations (Crozier, 1979a). For a shy individual, this process begins prior to actual involvement in a social situation. Crozier (1982) pointed out that shy people do not have a real deficit in social skills, but instead they are consumed by a lack of confidence in these skills. In fact, shyness can be conceptualized as a reaction to one's fears about social competence or ability to cope, and therefore it is perceived as more of a result of this mindset rather than the cause of it (Crozier, 1979b). The effects of this state of mind are demonstrated in the way in which shy people express lower self-efficacy beliefs concerning their social abilities (Caprara, Steca, Cervone, & Artistico, 2003), and show larger perceived skill deficits than non-shy people (Jackson, Towson, & Narduzzi, 1997; Melchior & Cheek, 1990). It is important to note that shy people do not rate themselves inadequately when considering all of their qualities; this is a perceived deficiency only expressed when assessing social abilities (Crozier, 1981).

There is also evidence that shy people do not hold unrealistically high expectations for their own social interactions in comparison to their expectations held for the performance of others, but the difference between shy and not shy people lies in their self-evaluation of their own social behavior. Clark and Arkowitz (1975) found that socially anxious people held the same standards concerning socially acceptable behavior for themselves and others. However, socially anxious men rated their own performance lower than did judges, while these same men rated the others' performance the same as the judges. This result suggests that the difference does not lie in the standards shy people hold for themselves versus others, but rather the difference lies in their inferior self-evaluation. …

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