Gender and Helping Here’s a quick, one-question quiz: Who helps more, men or women? Before you answer, consider the following situations:
A. Two strangers pass on the street. Suddenly, one of them needs help that might be dangerous to give. Other people are watching.
B. Two individuals have a close relationship. Every so often, one of them needs as- sistance that takes time and energy to provide but is not physically dangerous. No one else is around to notice whether help is given.
Is your answer different for these two situations? It’s likely to be. Situation A is a classic male-helper scenario. Because much of the research on helping used to focus on emergency situations, such as in the bystander intervention studies, older reviews tended to find that, on average, men are more helpful than women and that women receive more help than men. Men also may be more likely to help in dramatic ways when they feel in competition with another man. Frank McAndrew and Carin Perilloux found that if there is an opportunity to look more heroic than another man in the eyes of a woman observing, men may become especially likely to volunteer to endure pain to ben- efit the rest of their group.
Situation B, in contrast, is the classic female-helper scenario. Every day, millions of people provide support for their friends and loved ones, and some reviews indicate that women are more likely to provide this kind of help than are men. Although it lacks the high drama of an emergency intervention, this type of helping, called “social support,” plays a crucial role in the quality of our lives.