Pilliavin's Research

Pilliavin's Research
Pilliavin wanted to research into diffusion of responsibility in thereal world and whether it actually occurred. In order to do this shecarried out a field experiment on the New York subway.(i)The experiment was carried out by teams of 4 students on a 7-8minjourney on the subway. The team consisted of a victim, a model and 2observers. The female observers and the model and victim would bothget would enter the train via different doors, the observers would sitsomewhere in the adjacent area and the model would be in eithercritical or adjacent, depending on which was chosen.30 seconds after entering the train carriage the victim would fall inthe critical area of the carriage and could be in one of 2 states:
Cane trial ? The victim carried a cane, as if he was ill or
disabled.
[image]Drunk trial ? The victim was sprayed with and so smelt of
alcohol and was carrying a brown paper bag, with a bottle in.
The victim would then lie where he had fallen until he was helped up either by a member of the public or the model. The model also had 2 conditions in which he could be in:
Text Box: The set up of the experimentEarly condition ? help after
70 seconds after the collapse
Late condition ? help 150 seconds after collapse.
The 2 observers recorded all this information, as well as the sex and race of the of everyone in the critical area, the time it took for someone to help and how many others helped after the first person had had started helping. This was repeated by the teams about 6-8 times per day and a total of 103 trials were carried out. (ii)There are both advantages and disadvantages with the experimental method. Advantages - In a controlled experiment, certain variables can be controlled and manipulated to see what effect it has on the way people behave. In the Pilliavin study the situation was controlled by the use of the victim, who stumbled soon after entering the carriage. This was the arousal used and the behaviour of the people around was recorded. Another control was whether the model was an early or late helper, this was to see the effect, if any, of someone starting to help and whether others would follow and help as well. Another advantage of an experiment is that it can be replicated. If an experiment is replicated and the same results are obtained, then it is more likely that the results are true and the findings can be used to generalise the behaviour of the general population. This can be done with the Pilliavin study because of the quite strict methodology that was used to carry out the experiment e.g. the exact timing of the model, the length of the train journey and the condition of the victim. Disadvantages: Although in an experiment, most of the variables can be controlled, there are still certain aspects that can?t be, especially in a field experiment, where people haven?t been given any information that they are taking part. In the Pilliavin study the people in the carriage could have walked away to avoid the situation and leaving the carriage was a variable that they didn?t have control of. The experimenters also didn?t have control of which participants were used, they just had to use who was on the train. This may mean that they have a cultural or racial unbalance in the numbers of participants used. There also may not have been as many women on the train, which could have affected the results. There are ethical considerations with any field study because the participants haven?t given their consent, they have no right to withdraw and they aren?t debriefed. This means full considerations have to be made to ensure that field experiments that are carried out cause no mental harm. The Pilliavin study would have to have been carried out carefully to cause as little disruption as possible to peoples lives. It may, however, have caused some very short term mental harm as people wonder whether or not to help, or guilt at not helping or they may have feared being hurt by the drunk who just collapsed on the floor, if they did choose to help. (iii) Another method that could be used to look at peoples helping behaviour and diffusion of responsibility would be to write and give out a questionnaire out to people. It could present people with a few written scenarios and multiple choice answers and they could choose the option that they would do if they found themselves in that situation. This would be easier to carry out as it would require less time and man-power than the train experiment, it would still give quantitative data that is easy to analyse and the experimenters would have more control of the participants and would be able to get a balance of the sexes and of races. A questionnaire would however greatly decrease the validity of the study because would it be measuring people?s actual behaviour or how they think they would react? Demand characteristics would be a bigger problem as well, because people would be able to guess what the questionnaire was about and change their answers to help or perhaps hinder the results, to what they think is wanted from the experimenter or otherwise.

Pilliavin's Research 7.3 of 10 on the basis of 3691 Review.