Helping a motorist in distress: The effects of sex, race, and neighborhood

Stephen G. West, Glayde Whitney, Robert Schnedler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


2 experiments investigated the effects of the sex and race of the victim and the racial composition of the neighborhood in which the incident was staged on helping a motorist whose car was apparently disabled. In Exp I, a significant sex of victim effect was obtained: The female victims were helped faster than male victims. A significant Race × Neighborhood interaction was also obtained, with the Black victims being helped faster in Black neighborhoods and the White victims helped faster in White neighborhoods. The helpers were predominantly male and of the same race as the victim. In Exp II the effects of a 4th variable, proximity to a college campus, were also investigated. While the effect of sex of victim and the helper-sex bias were replicated, the Race × Neighborhood interaction was modified by the variable of proximity to college. In locations adjacent to a predominantly Black and a predominantly White campus, the victims of the opposite race were helped faster than victims of the same race. However, in the noncollege neighborhoods, the victims of the same race were helped faster. Whites predominantly helped victims of the same race, while Black helpers did not show a racial bias. Results are discussed in terms of J. A. Piliavin and I. M. Piliavin's (1972) 2-stage model of the helping process. (27 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)691-698
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1975
Externally publishedYes


  • black helpers
  • race of victim &
  • racial composition of neighborhood, helping motorist in distress, white &
  • sex &

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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