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Piliavin et al wanted to observe peoples responses to people in need, improving on similar experiments by making it more ecologically valid. It involved a victim, either ill or drunk, 2 observers and in some trials, a 'model' who would offer help to the victim either quickly (after 70 seconds) or slowly (after 150 seconds) in the adjacent or critical area.
In trials where the victim appeared to be ill, 70 seconds into the journey they would stagger forward and collapse. The two observers (both female) would sit in the adjacent area and one noted the race, gender and location of all passengers in the critical area and counted the number of helpers, while the other noted the race, gender and location of passengers in the adjacent area, and the time before people helped.
The model, always a white male, would come from either the adjacent or critical area either 70 or 150 seconds into the journey and would raise the victim into a sitting position and stay with them until the end of the journey. They found that the quicker the model helped the victim, the more effect they had.
In the drunk trials, the victim would have a liquor bottle in a brown paper bag and would smell of alcohol. They would do the same as the ill victim and would collapse 70 seconds into the journey and would remain lying down until they received help.
103 trials were carried out in the 3 months, but only 38 were drunk trials. This was because one of the teams victims did not like acting drunk, and so he carried out ill trials when he should have carried out drunk trials.
Piliavin et al found that the ill victim received spontaneous help on 62 of the 65 ill trials, whereas the drunk victim only received spontaneous help on 19 of the 38 drunk trials. In 60% of the 81 trials where the victim received help, he received help from multiple people rather than just one.
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