Gender Issues

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 65-70

First online:

Helping hands: A study of altruistic behavior

  • Elizabeth Monk-TurnerAffiliated withOld Dominion University
  • , Victoria BlakeAffiliated withOld Dominion University
  • , Fred ChnielAffiliated withOld Dominion University
  • , Sarah ForbesAffiliated withOld Dominion University
  • , Lisa LenseyAffiliated withOld Dominion University
  • , Jason MadzumaAffiliated withOld Dominion University

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The purpose of this paper is to better understand how altruistic behavior varies by gender, race, age, and dress. Eagly & Crowley’s (1986) social role theory maintains that the traditional male sex role promotes heroic and chivalrous helping behavior. Based on this theoretical insight, we hypothesized that men would be more likely to exhibit helping behavior than women (regardless of their race, age, or dress), especially if the person requiring assistance was a woman. We also expected that fewer women than men would offer assistance to another, especially if the person in need of help was a man. To test our hypotheses, we went to the downtown Waterside Festival Marketplace, where male and female actors “dropped” a stack of books. We found no significant differences in helping behavior between male and female subjects, all else being equal.