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Psicologia: Reflexão e Crítica

On-line version ISSN 1678-7153


SILVA, Abelardo Vinagre da et al. The lost letter technique as a social research instrument: a study of prejudice and helping. Psicol. Reflex. Crit. [online]. 1998, vol.11, n.1, pp. 117-134. ISSN 1678-7153.

The lost-letter technique was adapted to the cultural context of Brazil. Three hundred stamped and addressed letters were placed "by accident", i.e., simulating loss, on the wind shields of private cars in two large parking areas. A attached note explained that the author had missed the owner of the car. The note varied such that the author appeared to be either male or female (Factor 1), have certain personal characteristics, such as being black, homosexual, or control group (Factor 2), and allowed for telephone contact or not with the author (Factor 3) in a 2 x 3 x 2 experimental design. The finder of the letter could either (a) post the letter (pro-social behavior) or (b) ignore it. 60.7% of the letters were posted. No significant difference was found in terms of sex or personal characteristics, nor interaction between these two factors. Being able to telephone the author made a significant difference, more letter in this condition were posted. Methodologically, the lost letter technique showed promise, especially as a non-reactive research instrument in the study of prejudice and helping behavior.

Keywords : lost-letter technique; prejudice; helping behavior; pro-social behavior; helping behavior.

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