The relation between bystanders’ behavioral reactivity to distress and later helping behavior during a violent conflict in virtual reality

Hortensius, R. , Neyret, S., Slater, M. and de Gelder, B. (2018) The relation between bystanders’ behavioral reactivity to distress and later helping behavior during a violent conflict in virtual reality. PLoS ONE, 13(4), e0196074. (doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0196074) (PMID:29672638)

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The occurrence of helping behavior is thought to be automatically triggered by reflexive reactions and promoted by intuitive decisions. Here, we studied whether reflexive reactions to an emergency situation are associated with later helping behavior in a different situation, a violent conflict. First, 29 male supporters of F.C. Barcelona performed a cued-reaction time task with a low and high cognitive load manipulation, to tap into reflexive and reflective processes respectively, during the observation of an emergency. Next, participants entered a bar in Virtual Reality and had a conversation with a virtual fellow supporter. During this conversation, a virtual Real Madrid supporter entered and started an aggressive argument with the fellow supporter that escalated into a physical fight. Verbal and physical interventions of the participant served as measures of helping behavior. Results showed that faster responses to an emergency situation during low, but not during high cognitive load, were associated with more interventions during the violent conflict. However, a tendency to describe the decision to act during the violent conflict as intuitive and reflex-like was related to more interventions. Further analyses revealed that a disposition to experience sympathy, other-oriented feelings during distressful situations, was related to self-reported intuitive decision-making, a reduced distance to the perpetrator, and higher in the intervening participants. Taken together, these results shed new light on helping behavior and are consistent with the notion of a motivational system in which the act of helping is dependent on a complex interplay between intuitive, reflexive and deliberate, reflective processes.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Biology and life sciences, social sciences, engineering and technology, computer and information sciences.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Hortensius, Dr Ruud
Creator Roles:
Hortensius, R.Conceptualization, Data curation, Formal analysis, Funding acquisition, Investigation, Methodology, Project administration, Visualization, Writing – original draft, Writing – review and editing
Authors: Hortensius, R., Neyret, S., Slater, M., and de Gelder, B.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Psychology & Neuroscience
Journal Name:PLoS ONE
Publisher:Public Library of Science
ISSN (Online):1932-6203
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 Hortensius et al.
First Published:First published in PLoS ONE 13(4):e0196074
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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