Darley, J. M., and Batson, C.D., "From Jerusalem to Jericho":
A study of Situational and Dispositional Variables in Helping Behavior".
JPSP, 1973, 27, 100-108.
This is the famous seminary experiment about the Good Samaritans.
Previous studies have failed to find a link between personality traits and
the likelihood of helping others in an emergency. However, changes in the
# of people present did have a big effect on behavior.
The parable of the Good Samaritan is an interesting example. What possessed
the priest and the Levite to pass by the injured man by the side of the
road? Possibly they were in a hurry and were filled with busy, important
thoughts. Maybe the Samaritan was in less of a hurry. Or maybe the virtues
that the religious leaders espoused were not something they followed themselves
(unlike the Samaritan).
The researchers had three hypotheses:
1. People thinking religious, "helping" thoughts would still be
no more likely than others to offer assistance.
2. People in a hurry will be less likely to offer aid than others.
3. People who are religions in a Samaritan fashion will be more likely to
help than those of a priest or Levite fashion. In other words, people who
are religious for what it will gain them will be less likely than those
who value religion for it's own value or are searching for meaning in life.
The recruited seminary students for a study on religious education. First
they completed personality questionnaires about their religion (to help
evaluate hypothesis #3). Later they began experimental procedures in one
building and then told to go to another building to continue. On the way
they encountered a man slumped in an alleyway (the victims condition is
unknown -- hurt, or drunk?).
They varied the amount of urgency they told the subjects before sending
them to the other building, and the task they would do when they got there.
One task was to prepare a talk about seminary jobs, and the other about
the story of the Good Samaritan. In one condition they told the subject
they were late for the next task, in the other they said they had a few
minutes but they should head on over anyway.
In an alleyway they passed a man sitting slumped in doorway, who moaned
and coughed twice as they walked by. They set up a scale of helping:
0=failed to notice victim as in need
1=perceived need but did not offer aid
2=did not stop but helped indirectly (told the aide on their arrival)
3=stopped and asked if victim needed help
4=after stopping, insisted on taking victim inside and then left him.
5=refused to leave victim, or insisted on taking him somewhere
After arrival at the 2nd research site, they had the subject give the talk
and then answer a helping behavior questionnaire.
The amount of "hurriness" induced in the subject had a major effect
on helping behavior, but the task variable did not (even when the talk was
about the Good Samaritan).
Overall 40% offered some help to the victim. In low hurry situations, 63%
helped, medium hurry 45% and high hurry 10%. For helping-relevant message
53%, task relevant message 29%. There was no correlation between "religious
types" and helping behavior. The only variable that showed some effect
was "relgion as a quest". Of the people who helped, those who
saw religion as a quest were less likely to offer substantial help than
those who scored low on this statement. But later analysis revealed this
may not be caused be real religious differences.
Ironically, a person in a hurry is less likely to help people, even if he
is going to speak on the parable of the Good Samaritan. (Some literally
stepped over the victim on their way to the next building!). The results
seem to show that thinking about norms does not imply that one will act
on them. Maybe that "ethics become a luxury as the speed of our daily
lives increases". Or maybe peoples cognition was narrowed by the hurriedness
and they failed to make the immediate connection of an emergency.
Many subjects who did not stop did appear aroused and anxious when the arrived
at the second site. They were in a conflict between helping the victim
and meeting the needs of the experimenter. Conflict rather than callousness
can explain the failure to stop.