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The Amount And Effectiveness Of Help: The Relationship Of Motives And Abilities To Helping Behavior

E. Gil Clary, Leslie Orenstein

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A prospective study examined the influence of helpers' motives and abilities on the amount and effectiveness of a long-term altruistic activity. Crisis-counseling volunteers completed measures of altruistic motivation and perspective taking (a task-relevant ability), and their participation was followed: Volunteers either fulfilled their 9-month service commitment, terminated their participation (of their own volition) early, or were screened out because of inability to perform the work. Two predictions were tested and supported: (a) altruistic motives were related to the amount of help, early-terminating volunteers exhibiting less altruistic motivation than screened or completed service volunteers; and (b) volunteers' skills and abilities were related to the effectiveness of help, screened volunteers reporting less perspective-taking ability than early-terminating and completed-service volunteers. These findings suggest the need to consider the effectiveness of help, and helpers' task-relevant skills, in analyses of helping behavior.