In an experimental study conducted by Joyce D. Smith and David R. Shaffer, these researchers looked at the relationship between public and private self-consciousness and self-reported altruism (SRA). Public self-consciousness is how aware one is of their sense of self when out in public, or around people. Private self-consciousness is when one is internally evaluating their sense of self. Self-reported altruism is how a measure of how altruistic one tends to be. Research before Smith’s and Shaffer’s concluded that one was more likely to engage in helping behavior if one became self-aware. Other research found that private self-awareness was linked to helping behavior, when participant was available. In another study, researchers concluded that public self-consciousness increased the likelihood of altruistic behavior. Smith’s study aimed to answer how self-consciousness affects helping behavior. Smith hypothesized, that participants who were high self monitors in private would be more willing to engage in prosocial behavior. Prosocial behavior can include helping people and altruistic acts. Another of Smith’s hypotheses included that altruism and private self-consciousness would be closely related for participants who have employed prosocial behavior before. His third hypothesis would aim to study participants that were high self-monitors in public, which he claimed were more likely to engage in prosocial behavior, because of social responsibility (Smith & Shaffer 1986).
This study was conducted in a laboratory, at the University of Georgia. For this study, the researchers used 80 female lower division psychology students. Before the study was conducted, these female students had accomplished the Self-Consciousness Scale, at the beginning of the semester. This scale analyzed their self monitor levels at a private and public measure. The participants also completed the Self-Reported Altruism Scale, which looked at how altruistic the participants were. This was a blinded study, the participants were manipulated and deceived to believe that they were participating in a stress analyzer experiment. Participants were asked to record themselves reciting a series of statements and record voice prints to identify levels of stress.
These statements were manipulated by being factual and were in no way related to what the research was really about. After this process of detecting stress levels in a voice, participants were asked a few questions about their overall mood. During the trial of this experiment, participants were interrupted by a variable called, the helping request. This variable was apart of the actual experiment, a woman interrupted the participants and sought out additional help for another study. This woman asked the girls for 3-4 minutes of their time to answer a few questions on a survey without getting any credit for their help. The helping request was used to determine if the participants were prosocial and were willing to help. Their experiment included three dependent variables, the participant’s willingness to help, the time and effort the participant took helping with the survey and the number of questions the participant completed in the survey. After gathering their information about the self-consciousness scale and the self-reported altruism scale, in relation to whether the participant displayed helping behavior, researchers were able to come to some conclusions (Smith & Shaffer, 1986).
The results of their study concluded that self-reported altruism was not correlated with private or public self-consciousness. Although the researchers did find a connection between the two self-consciousness. They also found out that there is a correlation between private self-consciousness and helping behavior. This experiment demonstrated a correlation between a participant who is a high private self-monitor and how they are more willing to help, when asked for actual assistance. The SRA, projected the helping behavior for participants in of a high private self-monitor. The researches questioned if helping behavior increased when participants were a high public self-monitor because they are more prone to think about their sense of self in relation to having good values, and altruistic behavior. Their findings highlight that self-consciousness is a strong influencer of pro-social behavior; their willingness to help depends on how often one evaluates their sense of self, and how often they keep their values in mind. Although there was no “public” audience for the high public self-monitors, researchers drew conclusions indicating that participants in high public self-awareness would not display acts of altruism. Their conclusions suggest that participants with a high public self-monitor care more about how people perceive them, and when an audience is not present, participant is less likely to provide helping behavior.