Ask a busy person: Attentional myopia and helping

Matthew Wallaert, Andrew Ward, Traci Mann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


According to an oft-quoted piece of folk wisdom, if one wants something accomplished, the best person to ask is a busy person. We tested a version of this proposition in two studies. Study 1 exposed participants to a helping request in which cues promoting the relevant behavior were made more salient than those inhibiting it. Study 2 featured a request in which inhibiting cues were made more salient than cues promoting the behavior. In both studies, participants who were "busied" by high cognitive load showed more influence of the dominant behavioral pressure than did participants under minimal load. The results suggest that busy people can respond more to a helping appeal, but only when cues facilitating helping are more salient than those discouraging it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)505-510
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2014


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