You’re sitting at McDonald’s, trying to finish up your meal before you go to class. A woman getting her food catches your eye. ! On her way to a table, she trips and spills her food onto a man seated nearby. The man stands up abruptly, yelling “What the hell’s your problem?!” He throws his soggy sandwich on her tray and starts walking toward her, his face getting redder.
Note: At the ! symbol, two trait descriptors were inserted to manipulate level of agency or virtue. For example, “You recognize her from her picture in the school paper, in which she received an award for academic excellence.” would indicate high agency, while “You think she is the woman from your dorm who had to leave school last semester after being busted for dealing drugs.” would indicate low virtue.
The response alternatives available to participants were designed to resemble a continuum from approach to avoidance. For participants reading a defending scenario, they were (1) Physically disengage (Avoid the situation; leave); (2) Mentally disengage (Pretend not to notice); (3) Stare at the person, making it clear that you’re involved; (4) Intervene if it wouldn’t risk your personal safety; and (5) Intervene even if your personal safety would be threatened.