“Why didn’t you ask?” Overestimating the willingness to seek help and underestimating discomfort in help-seeking

“Why didn’t you ask?” Overestimating the willingness to seek help and underestimating discomfort in help-seeking

By
Vanessa K. Bohns, Francis J. Flynn
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. March
2010, Vol. 46, Issue 2, Pages 402-409

Across four studies we demonstrate that people in a position to provide help tend to underestimate the role that embarrassment plays in decisions about whether or not to ask for help. As a result, potential helpers may overestimate the likelihood that people will ask for help (Studies 1 and 2). Further, helpers may be less inclined to allocate resources to underutilized support programs than help-seekers because they are less likely to attribute low levels of use to help-seekers’ concerns with embarrassment (Study 3). Finally, helpers may misjudge the most effective means of encouraging help-seeking behavior – emphasizing the practical benefits of asking for help, rather than attempting to assuage help-seekers’ feelings of discomfort (Study 4).