Research Article Critique: Theories of Helping


09 Apr 2018

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Research Article Critique

  • Wong Hiu Tung

Research Article Critique

Sprecher, S., Fehr, B., & Zimmerman, C. (2007). Expectation for mood enhancement as a result of helping: The effect of gender and compassionate love. Sex Roles, 56, 543-549. doi: 10.1007/s11199-007-9192-6

Introductory of summary of the study

In this article, Sprecher, Fehr, and Zimmerman (2007) attempted to investigate how gender and the propensity to experience the compassionate love for others are associated with the forecast of the enhancement of positive mood from giving help to others and receiving help from others. They aim to examine whether the several psychological theories of helping, which suggested that people provide help due to receiving benefits, are correct or not. More specifically, the benefit received from helping could be the self-benefit, which is the enhancement of positive mood.

As a result, the participants, 47 males and 133 females from U.S. Midwestern public university, were asked to complete the randomly assigned questionnaire, either imagine themselves as the giver or the recipient of the helping acts, during the class. Firstly, participants were asked to rate the degree to which each helping behaviour was a good example of compassionate love. Secondly, they were asked to imagine the eight helping acts, which involved making a special meal, buying a present, expressing empathy and caring, verbal support for a tough decision, providing care when sick, a surprise gift, a call when feeling down, and sticking up for another, occurring with close friend and to assess what degree would they experience an increase in positive emotions as a consequence of each of the helping act. Finally, they completed the Compassionate Love Scale about their compassionate love for others.

This study found that all helping behaviours in this research were good examples of compassionate love and were expected to increase the mood of the individual. More specially, females are more likely to have an expectation of enhancing positive mood as a result of both helping and receiving help in a relational context than males. Moreover, individuals who are high in compassionate love for others are more likely to forecast their enhancement of positive emotion from giving and receiving help than those who are lower on compassionate love. Altruism and gender role are the meaning of these results.


Research Topic and Question

The problem is clearly stated and is researchable by examining how gender and compassionate love are associated with mood enhancement from helping respectively.

There are three variable in the research question and most of them are clearly defined. The mood enhancement is clearly defined as the increase of positive emotion, such as happiness, joy, or satisfaction. The compassionate love also had well-defined with the support of forceful psychological literature. Nevertheless, the definition of helping behaviours was ambiguous. The helping behaviours are defined briefly that merely included the eight helping acts, and stated that those helping acts are commonly experienced in the friendships of young adults. Therefore, it may need to provide a clear definition of helping behaviours in order to clarify which behaviour can be involved in the situation of helping within this study.

Literature Review

The review is relevant to the research questions and design. The researchers cite previous studies of the association between helping and different variables respectively, such as gender, receiving benefit, and the situational and dispositional variables. Moreover, the review included the previous studies which related the design and the research question of the present study and pointed out the limitations of the previous studies in order to justify the contents of their research. However, the review did not include the literature which contradicts to the prediction of the study, for example, the helping behaviours may not be determined by the rewarding.


The participants were similar in term of education level, ethnicity and social class to reduce the intervention of those variable. Lack of the method of selecting the sample is the limitation of this study. It merely described the number of participants and the ratio of the majority and the background of the participants, but have not reported the sampling method. Furthermore, the ratio of the participants’ gender may not appropriate for this research which the number of the female participants was almost triple of the number of male participants. Since the gender is one of the considerable variables in this study, it is hardly to conclude the effects of gender in the expectation for mood enhancement due to the imbalance of the ratio of the participants’ gender.

Method Selection

The selected method is appropriate to the research question. Since the questionnaire was the most appropriate and convenient method of self-report, it is suitable for examining the expectation of mood enhancement. In addition, the scenario study can relatively be provided adequate answers to the research question. Because the participants can be easier to imagine the several helping acts by the provided scenarios than the non-scenario questions, the participants can more accurately predict the emotional changing after giving or receiving help.

The selected helping acts may not be the most proper indicator of helping behaviour as the limitation of the study, especially making a special meal, buying a present and giving a surprise gift. In general, those three helping behaviours in this research cannot be generalized as helping behaviours because these behaviours may occur in other situations rather than the situation of helping, for example, we may buy a present to our friends for their birthday. Moreover, the participants may increase their mood due to the external reward instead of receiving help. For instance, the participants may feel happy, as well as mood enhancement, because of the gift rather than receiving the help. Therefore, the validity of the research is low since the three helping acts are not appropriate as the helping behaviours.


The designed procedure is clearly described regarding the work of the researchers and appropriate to answer the question of the study. First, the pre-test administered to the small group of similar students assessed the effectiveness of the eight helping behaviours. It was appropriated to ensure that the eight helping behaviours are suitable to measure the mood enhancement as a result of those helping acts. Second, the procedure had protected the confidentiality of the research participants due to the anonymous and voluntary questionnaire. One limitation of the study is that the questionnaire was completed during the class time. In general, the time pressure mostly occurred in the lecture because of the pressing courses. Therefore, the participants may complete the questionnaire arbitrarily, as well as answering inaccurately, because of the time pressure. As a result, the questionnaire can be completed in their leisure time in order to reduce the time pressure as an influential factor.

Data Gathering and Analysis

There are several strengths in this section. The data are presented clearly and fully that the results are clearly separated into three sections of the research question which base on the sections of the questionnaire: the helping behaviours were good examples of compassionate love, the association between gender and the expectation of mood enhancement as a result of the helping acts, and the association between compassionate love and the expectation of mood enhancement as a result of the helping acts. Also, the appropriate inferential and descriptive statistics are clearly described in text and presented in organized tables.

Furthermore, the results are clearly stated which correlations failed to reach the significance for the helping acts in giving and receiving conditions. For example, male and female participants’ ratings of the giving or receiving a surprise gift did not differ significantly in expectation of mood enhancement.

Interpretations, Conclusions and Discussion

The researchers clearly concluded that the results of the study provide support for the two hypotheses. However, the results may not conclude that the gender is associate with the forecast of a specific self-benefit because the number of male participants are relative extremely smaller than the number of female participants. Therefore, the association between gender and expectation for mood enhancement is not representative.

Although the researchers made a clear interpretations of the results in terms of the gender role and altruism, they had not explained the results of failing to reach the significance for the helping acts as the limitation of the study as well. For example, the helping act of giving or receiving a surprise gift was not a significant difference from male and female participants. Therefore, the study would also be explained the contradictory results for providing well-founded interpretations of the data.

The limitations of the study are incomplete that the researchers merely considered two limitations of the study, which focus on a context and an emotional consequence of helping behaviours. Some confound is absent to present in the study, such as the cultural differences, age. Moreover, the participants’ mood also be enhanced by the external rewards rather than receiving or giving help, such as receiving a gift or a meal, when the participants imagine the situation. Therefore, the researchers may need to present the other limitations of the study.

Finally, the researchers are presented the suggestion for future studies comprehensively. The researcher suggested the future studies can examine how gender and compassionate love associate with the anticipation of negative emotion as the consequence of helping behaviours in other relational context, which based on the limitation of the study. Therefore, it is the contribution of this research.


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