Help-Seeking and Causal Attributions for Helping

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: This thesis investigates help-seeking and effects of help-seeking on causal attributions for helping (i.e., what people believe caused help or lack of help). Additionally, it examines self-serving and other-serving attributions (i.e., to augment a person's positive sides and diminish the negative ones). Help-seeking was investigated in questionnaires, describing situations where spouses collaborate in doing household chores. A first study showed that women and men report using direct styles (i.e., explicitly verbalising the requests) more often than indirect ones. A second study showed that spouses inaccurately believe that wives in general would report more indirect and less direct styles than husbands in general. Causal attributions for helping were investigated in four studies with different methods, settings, and types of relationships (questionnaires, laboratory experiment; spouses doing chores, students and strangers doing computerized exercises). Consistent support was obtained for a predicted interaction between helping and the clarity of the request for help in determining the attributions. It is suggested that this finding is an effect of people comparing the behavior of one person with their beliefs about how other persons behave (i.e., consensus). Additionally, the findings did not support the claims that people make self-serving attributions and that the latter would be more pronounced among men than women. However, the attributions were other-serving. The thesis gives a novel understanding of everyday life by combining the issues of help-seeking and causal attributions. It also offers a discussion of the previous literature and of theoretical and applied implications of the findings.