Sex and helping : the effects of sex similarity of the helper, victim, and transgressor

The effects of sex similarity to a victim in need of help and to a transgressor on a potential helper's response were studied in two field experiments, both 2 x 2 x 2 factorial designs. In the first study, college men and women were telephoned and asked to volunteer for an experiment by a male or female researcher (victim) whose progress had been impeded by a male or female subject's (transgressor) failure to show up. Results showed male and female subjects volunteered equally, and were basically uninfluenced by the sex of the transgressor and by the sex of the victim. The second study provided for face-to-face contact by the potential helper, the victim and the transgressor, again manipulating the sex similarity of the three parties. In a supermarket line, a confederate transgressor crowded in line between the experimental subject and a confederate victim. Again, male and female subjects were equally supportive of the victim, with neither sex discriminating on the basis of the sex of the transgressor, nor the sex of the victim. The findings of both experiments are discussed in the light of previous research which has shown sex differences in helping; the theoretical bases such as ingratiation, identification and similarity, and cultural sex roles, which are used to explain these findings; the effect of the type of task; and the apparent differences between direct and indirect appeal for help.