To Help or Not to Help: Capturing Individuals’ Decision Policies

Document Type


Publication Date



decision making on provision of helping behavior, male vs female college students, test of arousal-cost-reward model of bystander intervention

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



The arousal: cost-reward model of bystander intervention developed by Piliavin, Dovidio, Gaertner and Clark in 1981 was tested using a within-subjects “policy capturing” methodology. Four hundred and forty nine participants read 50 scenarios and reported the likelihood they would offer help. Seventy-six percent of the participants' helping judgments could be reliably described or “captured” with a linear combination of the various costs of helping and costs of not helping specified in the model. In addition, participants were relatively aware of how the costs affected their helping decisions; although female participants may have been more aware than males. These findings provide additional support for the arousal: cost-reward model and extend understanding of the cognitive algebra that occurs before individuals decide to intervene.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Social Behavior and Personality, v. 28, issue 6, p. 561-578