Altruism at Hanover College:The Return Rates of Letters for Students, Faculty, and Staff By: Michaelia Gilbert Robyn Hooker & Sarah LeStourgeon
Lost Letters • The act of altruism is one’s helpfulness towards another without any promise of reward or benefit to the altruistic subject. • Return rates are higher in smaller, rural communities rather than larger communities (Bridges et. al., 2000). • Return rates are similar for males and females, and older participants more likely to return letters than younger participants (Gabor and Thomas, 1989). • Furthermore, as Bihm, Gaudet, and Sale (1978) found with lost letters, the gender of the owner of the lost letter and the gender of the finder have a significant impact on whether the lost letter is returned.
Hypotheses • Hypothesis 1: Female students more likely to return letters than male students. • Hypothesis 2: Faculty/staff more likely to return lost letters than students. • Hypothesis 3: Participants will be more likely to return open letters than closed letters.
Methods • 40 faculty letters • 20 open/20 closed • 40 student letters • 20 male • 10 open/ 10 closed • 20 female • 10 open/10 closed • Dropped letters in bathrooms of unisex dorms and campus buildings, sororities, fraternities and faculty lounges • Counted letters returned to our school mailboxes
2006-02-13 Joe Smith 517 Ball Dr. Hanover, IN 46743 Dear Joe Smith: Congratulations! Please allow me to take this opportunity in congratulating you on your recent acceptance into the internship program with SMR, Inc. As we recently discussed, the internship program that you are currently enrolled in is unpaid and requires 160 hours of service hood throughout the summer. We're looking for eager people who can do fast and detailed research. As we noted before, the most successful interns have an interest in marketing, writing, editing, advertising, human resources, or graphic design. Must be energetic, analytical, work well under deadlines, and are able to juggle many projects. We look forward to seeing you in our offices as we know that you will provide many beneficial advantages to our company. If you decide to accept the invitation into the program, you will need to reply within the next seven business days. Your response can be sent through mail, e-mail or fax. Our best wishes for continuing success! Sincerely, SMR, Inc. Assistant Director
Results: Faculty/Staff vs Students chi square (1) = 9.448, p = .002
Male vs Female Students Chi square (1) = 8.485, p = .004
Open vs Closed Letters Chi square (1) =.056, p = .813
Discussion • Females are more likely to be altruistic than males in anonymous situations • May be more generous and/or have more pressure to adhere to social norms (avoid guilt). • Faculty/staff are more likely to be altruistic than students in an anonymous situation. • May be because they are older and more mature; it is more likely they have been in the situation of losing something that needed returned. • The overall percentage of altruistic behavior was disappointing
Discussion • Limitations • Small campus • Time letter is dropped • Small Sample size • Non-serious Situation
Future Recommendations • It would probably be best to conduct this study on a larger college campus. • Measure more conditions • Compare with other tests of altruistic behavior