A Helping Hand Is Hard at Work: Help-Seekers' Underestimation of Helpers' Effort

A Helping Hand Is Hard at Work: Help-Seekers' Underestimation of Helpers' Effort

By
Daniel A. Newark, Vanessa K. Bohns, Francis J. Flynn
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. January
20, 2017, Vol. 139, Pages 18-29

Whether people seek help depends on their estimations of both the likelihood and the value of getting it. Although past research has carefully examined how accurately help-seekers predict whether their help requests will be granted, it has failed to examine how accurately help-seekers predict the value of that help, should they receive it. In this paper, we focus on how accurately help-seekers predict a key determinant of help value, namely, helper effort. In four studies, we find that (a) helpers put more effort into helping than help-seekers expect (Studies 1–4); (b) people do not underestimate the effort others will expend in general, but rather only the effort others will expend helping them (Study 2); and (c) this underestimation of help effort stems from help-seekers’ failure to appreciate the discomfort—in particular, the guilt—that helpers would experience if they did not do enough to help (Studies 3 & 4).