Pilliavin wanted to research into diffusion of responsibility in the real world and whether it actually occurred. In order to do this she carried out a field experiment on the New York subway. (i)The experiment was carried out by teams of 4 students on a 7-8min journey on the subway. The team consisted of a victim, a model and 2 observers. The female observers and the model and victim would both get would enter the train via different doors, the observers would sit somewhere in the adjacent area and the model would be in either critical or adjacent, depending on which was chosen.
The 2 observers recorded all this information, as well as the sex and race of the of everyone in the critical area, the time it took for someone to help and how many others helped after the first person had had started helping. This was repeated by the teams about 6-8 times per day and a total of 103 trials were carried out. (ii)There are both advantages and disadvantages with the experimental method. Advantages –
In a controlled experiment, certain variables can be controlled and manipulated to see what effect it has on the way people behave. In the Pilliavin study the situation was controlled by the use of the victim, who stumbled soon after entering the carriage. This was the arousal used and the behaviour of the people around was recorded. Another control was whether the model was an early or late helper, this was to see the effect, if any, of someone starting to help and whether others would follow and help as well.
Another advantage of an experiment is that it can be replicated. If an experiment is replicated and the same results are obtained, then it is more likely that the results are true and the findings can be used to generalise the behaviour of the general population. This can be done with the Pilliavin study because of the quite strict methodology that was used to carry out the experiment e. g. the exact timing of the model, the length of the train journey and the condition of the victim.