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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Induction, recipient deservingness and personality attractiveness : effects on children’s helping behaviors Leung, Jupian Jupchung


The purpose of this study was to determine if induction (explaining and reasoning with children so as to be altruistic), children's perception of a potential recipient's deservingness of help and personality attractiveness influenced their helping behavior in the form of pledged and actual donations, and pledges to contribute written stories. These three variables were chosen for study because they represent influences from two distinct sources - a third party (person delivering the induction) and the potential recipient. Specifically, induction represents a a direct attempt from a third party to influence the child while deservingness and personality attractiveness are characteristics of the potential recipient that might be expected to exert influence on the child. Studying these three variables together permitted one to discern the unique and the interactive effects of these sources of influences. A total of 195 boys and girls in grades five and six were randomly assigned to one of eight treatment conditions - each subject was randomly given one of eight "stories" to respond to - while the study was being conducted in their classrooms. Each story was a systematic combination of induction (induction vs. non-induction), deservingness (high vs. low), and personality attractiveness (high vs. low) treatments. Nine questions, designed to engage children's attention in the story and to serve as manipulation checks (process measures) and outcome/criterion (dependent) measures, were inserted in the appropriate locations of the story. Subjects' scores from the Comprehension Test of the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Tests and their responses to 10 relevant pre-experimental questions were obtained as possible covariates prior to treatment. Subjects first were paid 50 cents for doing some art work for a "foster-parent agency". They then read a "story" about an elderly person and later were given an opportunity to anonymously donate earnings to help and to contribute written stories to entertain that person. Multidimensional contingency table analyses of the process measures (manipulation checks) showed that the recipient deservingness and personality attractiveness treatments were functioning as expected and that: 1) a person with an attractive personality was liked and a person with an unattractive personality was disliked by children; and 2) children perceived deservingness in terms of personality attractiveness such that regardless of deservingness, a person with an attractive personality was perceived as more deserving than a person with an unattractive personality. A 4-way (induction x deservingness x attractiveness x gender) MANCOVA with subjects' indications as to how much they enjoyed writing stories as a covariate measure showed no reliable multivariate main or interaction effects but two reliable univariate main effects. They are: 1) main effect of personality attractiveness on subjects' pledge to donate earnings (recipient with an attractive personality received more pledged donations than recipient with an unattractive personality); and 2) main effect of gender on subjects' pledge to contribute stories (girls pledging more than boys). The findings are discussed in terms of 1) "concrete" thinking of children and their liking and helping behaviors; 2) "cost" of helping as it influences the helping behavior of children; 3) children's perception of deservingness in terms of personality . attractiveness; 4) "discrepancy" between "attitude" and "behavior" in children; 5) "saliency" of stimulus objects in research involving children; and 6) previous research findings on sex differences in helping behaviors. The implications of the results for education and for research and the limitations of this study are also discussed.

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