Commitments to help by children: Effects on subsequent prosocial self‐attributions

Robert B. Cialdini, Nancy Eisenberg, Rita Shell, Heather McCreath

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Abstract

Children of both sexes and at several ages were or were not induced to make a commitment to help hospitalized children by sorting papers. The commitments occurred under either public or private circumstances. Later, the children discovered that the commitment to help would require that they give up their recess times (i.e. breaks). The willingness of subjects to live up to their commitments and the altruistic self‐attributions resulting from those commitments were measured. It was found that, regardless of conditions, virtually all subjects were willing to give up recess time to help. However, their self‐attributions differed systematically with condition: only after making a private commitment to help did subjects come to see themselves as more altruistically oriented. Further, this effect appeared earlier for girls than for boys and persisted at least one month after the initial commitment. No such effects occurred for public commitments, suggesting that children as young as eight years were able to discount the self‐relevant implications of prosocial commitments made under public scrutiny. 1987 The British Psychological Society

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-245
Number of pages9
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Volume26
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1987

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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