Entries in helping behavior (7)


When Friends' "Help" Hurts

It has been well-documented that perceived support is associated with better health and well-being. Knowing that you’ll have someone there when you need them is a great comfort. However, the effects of actually getting help from others are mixed. When it works, support makes us feel good and can have tremendously positive effects on our lives. But other times it doesn’t help, and can even make us feel worse. So when is support from our loved ones well-received and when does it backfire?

There are several reasons why support may not be effective. Sometimes the people supporting us aren’t that good at providing the right kind of support. Another possibility is that receiving support makes the recipient feel indebted to the provider, leading to negative feelings. And finally receiving help could be a blow to self-esteem.

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Have To or Want To?: Deciphering Your Partner’s Motivations for Helping You

Think about the last time your friend or romantic partner did something nice for you. Now think about that other person’s motivations: Do you think s/he did it for you out of care for you or out of obligation? We asked people this question in two studies; across both studies, people who were more avoidantly attached—that is, people who were more uncomfortable depending on and opening up to others—were more likely to think that their friends or romantic partners did things for them because they felt like they had to, not because they wanted to.1 These perceptions may help avoidant people keep their partners at arm’s length and protect avoidant people from depending on or opening up to their partners. After all, if someone does something for you because they feel like they have to—not because they truly want to—you might assume they don’t really care about you anyway, so why should you depend on them in the future?

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Valentine’s Day Tip: Use Hearts to Get More Tips

We all know that Valentine’s Day is a heart-filled holiday, but is it possible that seeing a heart changes how much you tip at a restaurant? In a study of over 350 restaurant patrons’, waitresses delivered the bill under one of three candy-filled dishes: square, round, or heart-shaped. Results revealed that more people tipped (the study was in France, where tipping isn’t necessarily automatic) when provided with a heart-shaped dish and tipped a higher amount compared to the other two shapes. If you work as a waiter or waitress, perhaps you can make hearts work for you throughout the year.

Guéguen, N. (2013). Helping with all your heart: The effect of cardioid dishes on tipping behavior. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43(8), 1745-1749. doi:10.1111/jasp.12109


When Too Much Help from Parents Hurts

As a parent, how much should you help pay for your child's college education? How much should you help with their homework? The parent-child relationship is based on parent's helping their child. But sometimes parents can help too much. A recent article in the New York Times examines "helicopter parents" and how parents can help so much, that it actually hurts the child.


Support in Developing Friendships: Why We Give More Than We Receive

Chances are that at some point, you wanted to become closer friends with someone you liked but didn’t know well. How should you go about building the relationship? For example, if you and your potential new friend were going to an event together, do you offer to pick him or her up or should you ask for a ride? What if instead you were going with someone who is already your best friend? How likely is it that your choice to offer versus ask for a ride would change? A study by Yale University researchers on how people provide support in friendships illuminates why the closeness of a friendship may influence people’s likelihood to offer versus request support in everyday situations.

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On Valentine Street, Chivalry Isn’t Dead

Researchers examined whether subtle reminders of love increase men’s willingness to help. Men who had been approached by a woman asking for directions to Valentine Street were willing to help a different woman retrieve her cell phone from “thieves”, helping her almost 37% of the time. Men asked for directions to Martin Street only helped 20% of the time. The simple mention of “Valentine” unconsciously motivated men to behave in a more chivalrous manner.

Lamy, L., Fischer-Lokou, J., & Guéguen, N. (2010). Valentine Street promotes chivalrous helping. Swiss Journal of Psychology, 69, 169-172.


Teenagers: Perhaps Not as Evil as You Think

Researchers had teenagers and their parents read about situations in which the parents asked their kids for help, requiring the kids to give up their own plans with friends. Parents and teenagers agreed that the teenagers should help their parents, particularly when the parents really needed the help.  In situations where the parental request for help was not particularly urgent, however, the teenagers reported feeling more responsibility to help than the parents thought they should. 

Smetana, J. G., Tasopoulos-Chan, M., Gettman, D. C., Villalobos, M., Compione-Barr, N., & Metzger, A. (2009). Adolescents’ and parents’ evaluations of helping versus fulfilling personal desires in family situations. Child Development, 80, 280-294.

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