People with disabilities routinely face a dilemma in dealing with patronizing help: While accepting unsolicited assistance may be harmful for its recipients, confronting the helper can lead to negative interpersonal repercussions. Across two studies, participants were presented with a scenario depicting an interaction between a blind target and a sighted pedestrian and asked to evaluate the behaviors of the characters involved. Study 1 showed that, whereas blind participants considered both patronizing and hostile treatment as inappropriate responses to the blind target’s request for information, sighted participants saw patronizing help as significantly more appropriate than openly hostile treatment. Study 2 further demonstrated that, among sighted participants, blind targets were viewed as less warm and more rude when confronting benevolent versus hostile discrimination.
Wang, Katie, Silverman, Arielle, Gwinn, Jason D., and Dovidio, John F. (2015). Independent or ungrateful? Consequences of confronting patronizing help for people with disabilities. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 18, 489-503.