Who do I help? : an experimental examination of dominant ideology threat, group membership, and prosocial behavior

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


The American dream ideology (ADI) consists of working hard, taking responsibility for oneself, and being rewarded for those efforts. Therefore, the ADI precludes asking for help. The current project investigated the possibility that if a victim violates the ADI (in this case by asking for help), this violation may result in others withholding resources. Additionally, the current project investigated whether characteristics of the victim (e.g., a victim's ingroup (American) or outgroup (international) membership) and characteristics of the helper (as someone who had violated the ADI or not) influenced amount of help offered to a victim. In Study 1, participants (n = 60) were reminded of the ADI, then read about and rated a fellow ingroup or outgroup victim who was violating the ADI by asking for help (or not). Participants then reported willingness to help that victim. Results showed that men participants were relatively unwilling to help the victim regardless of condition, whereas women were only willing to help a victim who did not violate the ADI. Unexpectedly, the victim's group membership had no effect on amount of help offered. By including a control prime, Study 2 (n = 61) extended these findings by testing whether a reminder of the ADI was necessary to inflict the withholding of positive resources to a victim who violated the ADI. Additionally, to explore a way to increase helping to a victim asking for help, participants were made to perceive themselves as violating the ADI (or not). Results showed that again women were more likely to help the victim than were men, but only when women were not reminded of the ADI. Results further showed that women were more likely to derogate the victim when they were both primed with the ADI and perceived themselves as violating the ADI. Taken together, results suggest that although women may be willing to help an ingroup and outgroup member equally, they will still enact subtle prejudice (e.g., the withholding of positive resources) against victims who ask for help if the American dream ideology is salient. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.




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