Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version

March 1991


Published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 61:3 (1991), pp. 450–458. Copyright © 1991 by the American Psychological Association. Inc. Used by permission. “This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.”


Hypotheses concerning the specific contexts in which an altruistic personality might be most apparent were investigated, College students completed questionnaires tapping components of an altruistic personality, emotionality, and social desirability. At a 2nd session, the emotional evocativeness and ease of escape from the helping situation were experimentally manipulated. Ss were exposed to a distressed woman, completed state sympathy and personal distress indexes, and were given an opportunity to assist the woman. High scorers on dispositional altruism were expected to assist most when escape was easy, particularly when the distress cues were obvious. Altruistic and emotionally reactive persons were also expected to help most in a psychologically “weak” environment. Both predictions were supported. The relations between helping and the other predictors were also examined.