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Elicitation of Charitable Behavior in Children

Rosenhan, David L.; White, Glenn M.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Altruism., Behavior Development, Intermediate Grades, Observational Learning, Predictor Variables, Role Models


An experiment was performed to test the hypothesis that exposure to a giving model would elicit more altruistic behavior than would obtain under similar circumstances with no model. Subjects were 120 fourth and fifth grade students, 20 boys and 20 girls each assigned to each of three conditions—negative prior interaction with the model, positive prior interaction with the model, and no prior interaction with the model. The task was a miniature bowling game in which all subjects could and did win gift certificates, which could be given to charity. In the experimental groups, the model (experimenter) donated his gift certificates in the students' presence. The game was played both in the model's presence and in his absence. The results support the hypothesis. Of the 120 subjects who observed the model, 57 (48%) gave in the model's absence, while none of the 10 no-model controls evidenced altruistic behavior. A categorization of the model-exposed subjects according to whether they gave in the model's presence and/or absence revealed that 63% conformed and gave in the model's presence, while 48% internalized, giving in his absence. Of the latter, nearly 90% had given previously in the model's presence. Further results show the valence of prior interaction had no effect on subsequent giving and girls who had interacted with the model gave more in the model's presence but less in his absence than boys in the same group.

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