Money Can`t Buy You Happiness, but It Might Buy You Help
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
SADOWSKI, M. R. (2006). Money Can`t Buy You Happiness, but It Might Buy You Help. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 9. Available online at Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

Money Can`t Buy You Happiness, but It Might Buy You Help

Sponsored by: PATRICIA MARSH (
AbstractStudies in the bystander effect have been occurring in enormous numbers since the 1960’s. There have been many different variables that have been found to effect helping behavior. However, the topic of the bystander effect is still under great scrutiny. Many cannot understand why others would not react to another in distress. The unsettled issue is cause for much debate and may even lead to law changes in our country. The current study examines whether or not the appearance of wealth will be a contributing factor to helping behavior or not. The wealthy variable was assumed to increase and an Anova was conducted to see if there were any significant differences between the categories.

Money Can’t Buy You Happiness, But it Might Buy You Help Kitty Genovese was a young lady who lived in New York City. In 1964, she was stabbed to death while 38 of her neighbors watched (Aronson, 2004). Nobody tried to intervene and there were few, if any, phone calls made to the police. Kitty’s murder took a horrific thirty minutes to take place in which her attacker had to return three separate times to finish the job. Still, there was no help to be had from the onlookers who watched her violent demise. This tragic event is what sparked social scientists to do extensive research on what is now known as the bystander effect. Aronson (2004) has said that there are those who explain away the behavior of Kitty’s neighbors because of the every early time frame in which it happened. He does not agree with that explanation. Aronson recalled another story in which Eleanor Bradley, also in New York City, had fallen and broken her leg while walking on Fifth Avenue. Nobody offered her a helping hand either, and this was in broad daylight. It took forty minutes of people passing her by before someone finally came to the woman’s rescue. So, what are the reasons why people don’t help others? Well, there are an abundant amount of answers to that question. Aronson (2004) believes that conformity plays a big part in it. He cites that studies conducted by Darley & Latane have produced the results that helping behavior decreases by a lot when people are in group or crowd settings. However, when they are alone and believe that a person is in distress, they are more likely to help. So, it is safe to conclude that a person better hope that he or she is not amongst a crowd if they need help, because help may be a long time in coming. Solomon, Solomon, & Stone (1978) have done a different kind of study on the bystander effect. Their research looked at the variables of audio alone or audio and visual combined during a staged emergency. They did three experiments that took place in the lab and one field study. The three experiments that took place in the lab only slightly differed from one another to increase generalizability. In experiment 1, subjects were either in the audio condition, or the audio-visual condition. They were observed to see if they would respond, and how long it would take them to respond to a person in need. In experiment 2, the emergency was the same, but this time the victim was female, and the subjects met her prior to the alleged accident. In the third condition, a live victim was used. Their field study was done within an apartment complex laundry room. The emergency was the same as the ones in the lab, the person allegedly faints. People were tested under the same conditions: audio or audio-visual. In all cases, people responded more to the audio-visual condition than to the audio condition alone. The results were as they had anticipated. Although there has been much research done on the bystander effect in the past years, there are those who feel that there has been not much good to come out of it. Cunningham (1984) explains that people haven’t really changed their helping behaviors that much since the Kitty Genovese incident. People are still not willing to help others like they should. There was an incident when a woman in New Bedford, Massachusetts was gang raped in a bar in front of a whole slew of customers and nobody helped her. They just stood there and let it happen. Another incident is when a couple was attacked in a New York subway. Fifty passengers were present and actually watched as one of the gang members poked the woman in the eyes with an umbrella. Again, sadly, there was no assistance provided. Shotland (nd) blames these occurrences on diffusion of responsibility. He says that when people are around others, they assume that someone else will take action or that since nobody else is acting on it, maybe they shouldn’t either. Shotland found that the time it takes to complete a helping task also plays a big part in whether someone will provide another with assistance. He explains that if helping time is at least a minute and a half as opposed to 30-45 seconds, the helping behavior will decrease by at least fifty percent. That is an alarming finding. Chekroun and Brauer (2002) have conducted studies in which confederates would purposely graffiti the walls in an elevator in front of bystanders. Only 9.8% of the bystanders made an aggressive remark to the confederate. The findings are definitely in line with those prior mentioned in the fact that people are less likely to approach others in a group setting. It is my assumption, that there are other variables that will also increase or decrease helping behavior. The current study will look at the appearance of someone’s wealth to helping behavior. It is hypothesized that if a person in distress appears to be wealthy, they will receive more help than if they appear not to be wealthy.

MethodParticipants There were 55 students from a Midwest university that participated in this study. They were all enrolled in General Psychology. There were 19 males, and 36 females. Of the total sample, 37 were freshman, 16 were sophomore, and there was one junior, and one senior. There ages ranged from 19-46.Materials The subjects were all given a short story which they were asked to read, followed by a questionnaire that was to be completed afterwards. The questions were designed to measure helping or non- helping behavior. There were six questions. Questions 1, 5, and 6 were used to identify helping behavior, and questions 2, 3, and 4 were reverse scored and used to identify non-helping behavior.Procedure The subjects were asked to sign an informed consent form before they participated. Afterwards, they were asked to read a short story which manipulated the independent variable on three levels. The first level involved the appearance of a wealthy car (Mercedes Benz), the second level was a control group (the make of the car was not given), and the third level was that of non-wealthy appearance ( rusty, old Buick). There were two dependent variables that were to be measured. They are helping behavior or non-helping behavior. The subjects were asked to respond to six questions that dealt with the appearance of the character in the story and helping behavior. The subjects were then debriefed and asked if they had any questions for the researcher. The whole process took approximately 10 minutes.


There were two dependent variables that were measured. They are helping behavior or non-helping behavior. To test the hypothesis, a One-way ANOVA was conducted. The outcome revealed that there were no statistical differences found between the groups: the Mercedes group (M= 11.00, sd= 1.25), the rusty old Buick group (M= 11.29, sd=1.37, and the control group (no brand of car mentioned (M= 10.94, sd= 1.29. The mean for total helping was 11.11 and the mean for non-helping was 5.56.

Discussion It has been demonstrated in previous research that there are many different factors that influence helping behavior. This study was conducted to test whether the appearance of wealth would increase helping behavior. It was hypothesized that wealthy appearance would indeed influence helping behavior in a positive manner. However, when the Anova was done to see if there were any differences between the control group, wealthy group, or non- wealthy group, no significance was found. There were many limitations to this study that may have lead to non-significance of the results. One of them is that of the sample size. There were 55 people who participated in this study. A larger sample size might have proven to be valuable. Of the 55 participants, the place of residence is a commonality amongst many of them. If the area had been more densely populated (such as in a major metropolis) the helping behavior might have been altered in a way that would support the idea that the wealthy get more help than the non-wealthy. It is believed that the factor that would bring the results closer to the p<.05 marker is that of a field study. People are more likely to respond to a real life situation differently than random questions in survey. Field studies are known for having high external validity. It is assumed that if people were exposed to an emergency situation in a more realistic environment, they would respond differently. Real life occurrences are often met with responses than those that are made up scenarios. Future studies in this area may want to take into account the factors prior discussed. If conducted in a different way, the appearance of wealth versus non-wealth may prove to be a fruitful idea for further research. It may also help us to look at the bystander effect from a whole different point of view.

ReferencesAronson, E. (2004). Conformity. In L. Pople (Ed), The Social Animal (pp.11-45). New York, N.Y.: Worth Publishers.Cunningham, S. (1984). Genovese: 20 years later, few heed a stranger’s cry. Social Action and the Law, (10), pp. 24-25.Solomon, L.Z., Solomon, H., & Stone, R. 1978). Helping as a function of bystanders and ambiguity of emergency. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 4, (2), 318-321.Chekroun, P., Brauer, M. (2002). The bystander effect and social control behavior: the effect of the presence of others on people’s reactions to norm violations. European Journal of Social Psychology, (32), 853-867.

Submitted 5/8/2006 1:09:42 PM
Last Edited 5/8/2006 1:15:13 PM
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