This experiment was prompted by the belief that felt inadequacy and lack of opportunity to reciprocate act as deterrents to help seeking when help is needed. The experiment was conducted on 56 freshmen by modifying Greenberg and Shapiro's physical disability paradigm. Subjects were told that they could not meet the quota on a manual task but had done well (poorly) for persons similarly handicapped (by arm in sling). Later they learned that the electricity would be shut off in 2 hr (15 min), making it possible (impossible) to help the visually handicapped fellow worker later on a visual task. The hypothesis that felt inadequacy inhibits help seeking was fully supported, while the corresponding hypothesis regarding lack of opportunity to reciprocate received only partial support. There were no sex differences. The relevance of these data for embarrassment theory is discussed. © 1973.
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