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The Effects of models of perceived similarity on two types of altruistic behavior in fifth grade children Hops, Zona Joyce

Abstract

This study examined the effect of same-sex peer models perceived as similar, neutral, or dissimilar on two types of altruistic behaviour in fifth grade children. The dependent variable was altruistic responses, operationally defined as penny donations and volunteering of service time to work on a charitable project. A two-factor design was employed for each experiment in which the three treatment conditions: model-similar, model-neutral, model-dissimilar, and the no-model control group were nested within the sex factor. A total sample of 320 subjects for both experiments was drawn from six public elementary schools in North Burnaby. The research questions for the two experiments were: 1. Does the presence of a model elicit more donations of money and service time for charitable purposes in fifth grade children than no model? 2. Does the similarity shared between the observer and model affect the donations of money and service time for charitable purposes? 3. Are there any sex differences in donating money and service time for charitable purposes? Each subject was interviewed individually by an experimenter who attempted to manipulate through a verbal description the perceptions of a peer-model. Following a brief introduction the subject observed the model play a marble game through which rewards of pennies or five-minute time tokens were dispensed on a pre-determined schedule. The subject then played a game alone and received either money or time tokens which could be contributed by dropping them into a donation can before leaving the experimental room. The no-model control group played the game alone following initial instructions from the experimenter. The data was analyzed by an ANOVA and orthogonal comparisons of the means of the different treatment groups. As hypothesized, a same-sex peer model was more effective in eliciting altruistic responses than no model. The greater the real or assumed similarity between the observer and model the more effective the model was in eliciting penny and service donations. The presence of a model perceived as similar was significantly more effective in eliciting money donations and service time than a model perceived as dissimilar. No sex differences were found in the donations of money or time to work on a charitable project.

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