Volume 4

Coming to the Aid of Another: The Impact of Victim and Witness Characteristics on Willingness to Offer Assistance

Lori Jayko

This study was designed to examine the influence of witness and victim characteristics on helping behavior. Participants included 287 volunteers who read a scenario portraying a hypothetical victim of a violent crime. Scenarios were varied by victim age and gender. Participants then completed measures assessing willingness to help, perceptions of physical competence, sensation-seeking, empathy, risk-taking, fear of crime, fears of physical danger, and crime experiences. Participants reported being more likely to assist youth and female victims. Middle-aged victims received the least help and were blamed the most. The situation was perceived as most dangerous for the elderly scenario victim. Implications of victim and witness characteristics, including risk-taking and sensation seeking are discussed.

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