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You can download and read a copy of the original 1969 study here.




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The Piliavin Page

Piliavin, I.M., Rodin, J.A. & Piliavin, J. (1969) Good Samaritanism: An underground phenomenon? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 13, 289 -99)

On this page you should find lots of useful stuff to help you in your learning of the subway field experiment.

Here is the most important page. Click here for a summary and evaluation of the Piliavin et al. (1969) study.

This page has lots of Core Studies Section A past questions that you might want to practice. Please don?t email me for the answers.

Here is a multi choice quiz,a matching quiz a true or false quiz and a crossword to test your knowledge of the study.

And here is a great page on Jamie?s psychblog where you can read the original study and more.




Below is a much briefer summary of the Piliavin et al. study.

The aim of this study was to investigate

the effect of the type of victim (drunk or ill) which gained most help

the race of the victim (black or white) which gained most help

the speed of helping, frequency of helping and the race of the helper.

The study also sought to study the impact of the presence of a model (someone who offers help first) in emergency situations, as well as to examine the relationship between the size of the group and frequency of helping.

The participants were approximately 4450 men and women travelling on a particular stretch of the New York underground system between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays during April and June 1968. The average racial composition of the passengers on the train, which travelled through Harlem to the Bronx, was 45% black and 55% white. The average number of people in the train carriage was 43, and the average number of people in the critical area where the incident was staged was 8.5.

Two particular trains were selected for the study because they did not make any stops for about 7.5 minutes there was a captive audience who, after the first 70 seconds of their journey became bystanders to an emergency. A single trial was a non-stop, 7.5-minute journey in either direction.

On each trial, a team of four Columbia General Studies students, two males and two females, boarded the train using different doors. Four dif?ferent teams, whose members always worked together, collected data for 103 trials. The female confederates sat outside the critical area and recorded data as unobtrusively as possible during the journey, while the male model and victim remained standing. The victim always stood next to a pole in the centre of the critical area. As the train passed the first station (approximately 70 seconds after depart?ing), the victim staggered forward and collapsed If he received no help by the time the train slowed to a stop, the model helped him to his feet. At the stop, the team got off and waited separately until other pas?sengers had left the station before proceeding to another platform to board a train going in the opposite direction for the next trial. Six to eight trials were run on any given day and all trials on a given day were in the same ?victim condition?.

The four victims (one from each team) were males, aged between 26 and 35, three white, one black, all identically dressed. On 38 trials the victims smelled of alcohol and car?ried a bottle wrapped tightly in a brown bag (drunk condition),

On the remaining 65 trials they appeared sober and carried a black cane (cane condition).

Four white males (aged 24 to 29) played the role of model in each team.

There were four different model conditions used across both drunk and cane victim conditions:

? Critical area - early: model stood in critical area and waited until passing the fourth station before assisting the victim (approximately 70 seconds after the collapse).

? Critical area - late: model stood in critical area and waited until passing the sixth station before assisting the victim (approximately 150 seconds after the collapse).

? Adjacent area - early: model stood in middle of the compartment, adjacent to critical area and waited until passing the fourth station.

? Adjacent area - late: model stood in adjacent area and waited until passing the sixth station.

On each trial one observer noted the race, sex and location of every pas?senger, seated or standing, in the critical area, together with the total number of passengers and the total number who came to the victim?s assistance, plus their race, sex and location. A second observer in the adjacent area did the same and both observers recorded comments spontaneously made by nearby passengers and also tried to elicit comments from a passenger sitting next to them.

The results showed that helping was very high.

The cane victim received spontaneous help on 62 out of the 65 trials, and the drunk victim received spontaneous help on 19 out of 38 trials.

On 60% of the 81 trials where spontaneous help was given, more than one person offered help.

Once one person had started to help, there were no differences for different victim conditions (black/white, cane/drunk) on the number of extra helpers that appeared.

The race of the victims made no significant difference to helping behaviour, but there was a slight tendency for same-race helping in the drunken condition.

90% of helpers were male. Although there were more men present, this percentage was statistically significant;

64% of the helpers were white; this was what would be expected based on the racial distribution of the carriage.

On the majority of the trials, the model did not get the opportunity to act, so no extensive analysis was made of the effect of the model.