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Volunteering behavior was examined by conducting an experiment to determine what would cause people to volunteer for experiments. Behavior was examined based on two factors, situational and personality. The two hypotheses were that: subjects would imitate the behavior of a confederate, and that firstborns would choose a group experiment over an isolation experiment. Same-sex pairs of experimenters and confederates recruited same-sex subjects for the 3 conditions: confederate-yes, confederate-no, and control. Preference sheets were used to record the subjects' sex, birth order and choice of experiment. Analysis found support for the first hypothesis, X2(2, N=57) = 6.98, p <0.05, but not for the second hypothesis.
Volunteering behavior has been of considerable interest to researchers in the last 40 or 50 years. There have been numerous studies that have tried to determine the factors affecting volunteering behavior. The known determinants can be broken down into two categories: situational and personality.
A number of situational factors have been found to increase volunteering. Some listed by Rosenthal and Rosnow (1969) include increasing the prestige of the experimenter; increasing the acquaintanceship with the experimenter as well as the liking for him; increasing the perceived likelihood of receiving a favorable evaluation (or avoiding an unfavorable one) from the experimenter; imposing a relatively unattractive alternative to volunteering; and increasing the interest-value of the experiment.
Some other situational determinants affecting volunteering mentioned by MacDonald (1972) include the type of incentive offered for participation. Students in 14 sections of introductory psychology classes were randomly assigned to one of 3 conditions: extra credit, pay, and love of science. MacDonald found that 79% volunteered for extra credit, compared to 57% and 58% for the pay and love of science. He also found that females (74%) had a higher volunteer rate than males (59%), but that there was no significant difference between the number of firstborns and later borns who volunteered under any of the three conditions.
Another situational determinant identified by MacDonald (1972) was the method of recruitment. Firstborns tend to volunteer more when the method of recruitment is intimate or personal basis. MacDonald said that firstborns were probably responding to the personalized appeal by the recruiter rather than to affiliate with other volunteers. Rosenbaum and Blake (1955) conducted a study, which serves as a model for the present experiment. The subjects were recruited by an experimenter and confederate who worked together. Rosenbaum and Blake (1955) found that the subjects tended to imitate the behavior of the confederate. Subjects who observed the confederate volunteer were more likely to volunteer than when the confederate refused. In the confederate-no condition, imitating behavior was only marginally significant when compared to the control condition. In a follow up study, Rosenbaum (1956) used the same procedure, but manipulated the intensity of the request to participate and he found that volunteering increased with increasing intensity of the recruitment appeal.
Based on the above review, it is hypothesized that if a subject observes a confederate's response, then the subject will be more likely to imitate the behavior of the confederate when later asked to volunteer.
Some of the personality factors affecting volunteering behavior were identified by Rosenthal and Rosnow (1969) in their review of available literature at the time. They listed 16 characteristics that they believe distinguished the volunteer from the nonvolunteer. Volunteers were found to be higher in education, occupational status, and intelligence, lower in authoritarianism, conventionality, age, and from a family of lower socioeconomic status. Women tend to volunteer for conventional tasks more often than men, but men tend to volunteer for highly unusual or threatening tasks more often than women. Another finding is that volunteers for survey type research seem to be better adjusted than nonvolunteers, but for medically oriented research the volunteers do not appear to be as well adjusted as the nonvolunteers.
Other factors that have been linked to the volunteering behavior is a person's birth-order. It was shown by Schachter (1959) that firstborn college students generally possess a higher need for affiliation than those who are later born, especially in anxiety arousing situations. Schachter theorized that it is probably due to different child rearing practices applied to firstborns and to children who were born later. Parents seem to be more solicitous and attentive to a firstborn child than to one who is born later.
In a research conducted by Capra and Dittes (1962), the implications of Schachter's (1959) findings was examined. If firstborns have a higher need for affiliation, then they are more likely to volunteer for group experiments. If this is true then research done in the past would have contained an unrepresentative sample with a higher percentage of firstborns. Capra and Dittes (1962) conducted an experiment at Yale university, using 100 male undergraduates to study the birth-order bias. The subjects were contacted individually in their dormitory rooms, and asked to participate in a small group experiment. The researchers found that 36% of those who agreed to participate were firstborns compared to 18% later borns. In his review of literature, Altus (1966), reported that firstborn males showed up for voluntary testing in greater proportion than did later born's. This could be due to an overrepresentation of firstborns in the college population nationwide.
Other researchers have obtained negative or even reversed results from the previously mentioned studies. For example, Ward (1964) solicited volunteers for an experiment with 3 conditions: a group study, an isolation experiment and a third condition which was not described. No evidence was found to support a relationship between birth order and volunteering. In an apparent reversal of the expected results, Suedfeld (1964) recruited subjects for a sensory deprivation experiment, and found that 79% of his volunteers were firstborns. This was an even larger percentage than that obtained earlier by Capra and Dittes (1962) for their "group" experiment.
Rosenthal and Rosnow (1969) concluded that birth order probably does influence volunteering, but that the relationship is a weak one at best. With reference to the birth order effect, MacDonald (1972) proposed that firstborns volunteer because they are more highly socialized than later borns in the sense that they are more receptive to the requests of adults or authority figures.
The second hypothesis of this experiment is that if firstborns and later borns are given a choice as to the type of experiment they would prefer, then firstborns will choose a group experiment over an isolation experiment.
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