Helping behavior towards strangers: the role of future interactions and emotional displays

Activity: Talk or presentation typesPresentation


Objectives: Humans are unusually cooperative compared to other species because we help in diverse ways: even strangers whom we are unlikely to ever meet again. How can this evolve? Some explanations include empathy and social affiliation, but little is known about those mechanisms in complex, naturalistic settings.
Design: Thus, we investigated whether the probability of future reconnection affects the type of help given to strangers with different emotional displays. The study used a between-subjects design and was conducted online via Qualtrics.
Methods: Self-selected adult participants were randomly assigned one of two vignettes with two strangers whom they were either unlikely or likely to meet again after the current interaction. Thereafter, they read a dialogue transcript with each of those two strangers of whom one made a sad and the other a happy impression. Participants were then asked to make a choice to help one stranger with a 30-minute conversation and the other with a self-purchased lunch. Additionally, we asked them to provide a short explanation for their choice.
Results: Data collection is ongoing, and we expect to find that participants will be more likely to offer conversational help to the sad stranger when the chance for future reconnection is low, compared to high.
Conclusions: The study will provide novel insights into how emotional display and future reconnection inform helping decisions, which can be used to increase helping levels in charitable donations and other scenarios.
Period1 Apr 2023
Event titleBPS Scottish Undergraduate Conference
Event typeConference
LocationDundeeShow on map