Social Psychology

Student Learning Program

Chapter 2: Asking and answering research questions

Case Study: Demand characteristics

Aderman and Berkowitz (1970) asked 120 participants to listen to a recorded conversation between a person in need of help and a potential helper. The potential helper either did not help, helped and was thanked, or helped and was not thanked. Participants who imagined themselves being the person in need of help, or imagined being the potential helper who helped and was thanked, helped the experimenter the most, in contrast to participants who imagined themselves to be the non-helper.

Results showed that the mood of the participants mediated these effects; participants who imagined themselves being the thanked helper had pleasurable empathic experiences, while participants who imagined themselves as being the person in need experienced unpleasant empathic reactions, becoming more strongly motivated to help.

Wispe, Kiecolt, and Long (1977) replicated these mood effects on helping. However, in their second study, they demonstrated that these mood effects were only present when participants knew about the purpose of the research, and not when they were ignorant about being measured on helping behavior. This supports the demand characteristics hypothesis that the procedures used in empathy and helping studies suggest that results may be due to demand characteristics.


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In this chapter

  1. Chapter 2 introduction
  2. Research questions and the role of theory
  3. Testing theories: From theory to research
  4. The role of ethics and values in research
  5. Chapter overview (PDF)
  6. Fill-in-the-blanks
  7. Multiple-choice questions