Virtue in Action: Predictors of Helping Behavior and the Situationist Debate
According to a new theory of virtue, retrospective virtue, one can become virtuous by going through a process of reflection on past experiences and behavior which allows one to make better choices about which situations to enter, and ultimately, allows one to develop a awareness of situational pressures that overcomes their influence. Unhindered by these pressures one is free to act virtuously. Helping behavior offers empirical evidence of virtue, as one would expect to observe in a virtuous person. An experiment involving college students investigated possible predictors of helping behavior. Students were provided with an opportunity to help a confederate student pick up papers and then were asked to complete self reports on potential helping behavior predictors including agreeableness, virtue, application of learned material (in social/personality psychology or introduction to psychology) to their everyday life, and situation strength. According to the theorized model of retrospective virtue, perceived situation strength and self-reports of application of material, especially from social and personality psychology students should be the best predictors. Individually application of class material to everyday life and which class students had taken were not good predictors alone but only assisted as part of the composite and personality had to removed from the composite as it was not a good predictor by itself or with the others. Because most participants helped and situation strength was a good predictor of helping behavior, this study did show support for situationism. But, the results also supported retrospective virtue, showing the model to be a good predictor, especially virtue and situation strength.
Franklin and Marshall College Archives, Undergraduate Honors Thesis 2009
- F&M Theses Collection