Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Induced Cognitions of Love and Helpfulness to Lost Persons

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Induced Cognitions of Love and Helpfulness to Lost Persons

Article excerpt

Studies of gender differences and helping behavior have demonstrated that interactions vary greatly according to experimental conditions. For example, when requested by hitchhikers, male drivers stopped more frequently than did female drivers (Gueguen & Fischer-Lokou, 2004). Male passersby agreed to mail a letter for, or to lend a dime to a female confederate more often than female passersby did (Kleinke, MacIntire, & Riddle, 1978). But it has also been found that men provided less help than did women when the opportunity was offered to mail a "lost" letter to an unknown person (Bihm, Gaudet, & Sale, 1979). Also, men and women did not differ in the amount of help that was provided to a female confederate who pretended to be in pain from a hurt knee (Harris & Huang, 1973). These seemingly contradictory findings may be at least partly resolved if one considers the impact of gender roles on helping behavior. Reviews of the literature (Dovidio, Piliavin, Schroeder, & Penner, 2006; Eagly & Crowley, 1986) have shown that people tend to offer the kind of help that is most consistent with their gender role. Gender roles are norms about how men and women should behave: men should be "heroic and chivalrous", whereas women should be "nurturing and caring" (Eagly & Crowley, 1986). Further, gender-congruent behaviors appeared to be fostered, all the more so as the gender norms were made salient. This is notably the case in public settings, when onlookers are present (Eagly & Koenig, 2006).

In a recent study, Lamy, Fischer-Lokou, and Gueguen (2008) argued that another means by which the gender norms for helping may become salient consists of inducing a cognition of love. Love, in its romantic meaning, involves relational scripts (Forgas, 1993) that specify how a man or woman should behave in different situations (i.e., a man should not let his girlfriend pay for dinner at a restaurant; a woman should not look untidy). Therefore, asking participants to retrieve the memory of a love episode could enhance their awareness of gender roles, and thus foster gender-congruent behaviors. Previous results support this hypothesis: men, more than women, engaged in chivalrous helping (Dovidio et al., 2006; Eagly & Crowley, 1986) after they had retrieved the memory of a person they loved, compared to the memory of a piece of music they loved. More precisely, men gave money more frequently when the requester was female and they had engaged previously in remembering a love episode. Nevertheless, the amount of money given to the requester was not significantly affected by love remembrance. So it remains unclear if an induced cognition of love has an impact only on the decision to help or not, or also on the amount of help that is given to the requester who has asked for some money "to take the bus". The amounts of money given to the requester were very low (.08 to .15 [euro]) and most participants refused to help; a possible floor effect might thus have occurred in this study. This is the reason why, in the present experiment, a dependent variable that could allow for a greater propensity to help was chosen. Participants were asked by a lost person holding a map if they could give directions on how to find a city street.

Asking participants directions has been used in previous research as a measure of helpfulness, but male-female differences were scarcely addressed. Participants have been only women (Schiavo, Sherlock, & Wicklund, 1974), only men (Feldman, 1968), or men and women, without testing possible differences across gender (Harrell, 1977; Juhnke et al., 1987). To our knowledge, in only one study has the interaction of gender and a request for help including directions given to lost tourists and amount of time spent with the requester been tested (Rabinowitz et al., 1997). Results showed that male passersby spent more time with female tourists asking for directions than they did with male tourists. …

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