[nabs-l] Defining Excessively Helpful People and Interactions

Arielle Silverman nabs.president at gmail.com
Tue Aug 24 23:21:04 UTC 2010

Hi all,

So this isn't directly related to NABS, but I wanted to ask you for
some brainstorming help and start a discussion which I think we will
all find fun and personally relevant:

As you may know, I'm working on my Ph.D. in social psychology. One of
my co-grad students and I are designing an experiment to investigate
the effects of blindness simulations (i.e. activities where people
blindfold themselves and stumble around a room for a few minutes, eat
a meal, etc.) on sighted people's attitudes and actions toward blind
people. More generally, we're interested in finding out how sighted
people try to understand the perspective of being blind and how those
attempts affect their beliefs about blindness. Based on
perspective-taking theory and past research (as well as my personal
experience with blindness simulation exercises), we are predicting
that when people do blindness simulations, they may like us more and
express more sympathy and desire to help the blind, but that they will
also think of the blind as less competent or capable, since they just
went through the frightening and disconcerting experience of "being
blind" and might be inclined to think that this is how real blind
people feel and act.

We have some ways of measuring people's attitudes toward the blind,
but we'd also like to set up a real interaction with a real blind
person and assess how sighted people treat a real person, and if
people act differently toward a real blind person when they have
undergone a blindness simulation. We think that people who do the
simulation might tend to be more excessively or obnoxiously helpful,
or less respectful, toward a blind person. What we're trying to figure
out is how to measure this "over-helpfulness" in a way that shows that
it's clearly undesirable. For example, we can't just keep track of how
many people try to help the blind person and how many people don't,
since people might argue that helping the blind is a good thing and
that maybe these simulations are actually a good idea.

So my question for you guys is, in your experience, what distinguishes
people who are appropriately helpful from people who are obnoxiously
so? Can you think of any good ways we can quantify these kinds of
undesirable interactions, which I know we've all had at times with
members of the public?

Thanks in advance for your help.


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