“Why Didn’t You Just Ask?” Underestimating the Discomfort of Help-Seeking

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Across four studies we demonstrate that people in a position to provide help tend to underestimate the role that embarrassment plays in decisions about whether or not to ask for help. As a result, potential helpers may overestimate the likelihood that people will ask for help (Studies 1 and 2). Further, helpers may be less inclined to allocate resources to underutilized support programs than help-seekers because they are less likely to attribute low levels of use to help-seekers’ concerns with embarrassment (Study 3). Finally, helpers may misjudge the most effective means of encouraging help-seeking behavior - emphasizing the practical benefits of asking for help, rather than attempting to assuage help-seekers’ feelings of discomfort (Study 4).

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2010-01-01
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help-seeking; prosocial behavior; egocentrism; perspective-taking; altruism
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Required Publisher Statement: © Elsevier. Final version published as: Bohns, V. K., & Flynn, F. J. (2010). ‘‘Why didn’t you just ask?” Underestimating the discomfort of help-seeking. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46(2), 402-409. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2009.12.015 Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
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