How do people react to those who have helped them? The authors propose that a recipient's evaluation of a helper's intentions and the recipient's own attitudes about future interactions with the helper depend partly on the recipient's perceptions of how the helper decided to assist: on the basis of affect, of role, or of cost-benefit calculation. When a recipient perceives that the decision was based on affect (i.e., positive feelings about him or her), he or she will be more inclined toward future interaction and reciprocation than if he or she perceives the decision as based on role or cost-benefit calculation. It is proposed that these "decision modes" signal the helper's underlying attitudes about the recipient, which in turn, clarify their relationship. A boundary is also identified: The negative impact of apparent cost-benefit thinking is greatest when the amount of help provided is small. Predictions are confirmed in four studies of actual and experimentally manipulated helping episodes.

Daniel Ames, Francis Flynn, and Elke Weber
Journal Article
Publication Date
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

Full Citation

Ames, Daniel, Francis Flynn, and Elke Weber
. “It's the Thought That Counts: On Perceiving How Helpers Decide to Lend a Hand.”
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
, (April 01, 2004):