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When seeking help, women and racial/ethnic minorities benefit from explicitly stating their identity


Receiving help can make or break a career, but women and racial/ethnic minorities do not always receive the support they seek. Across two audit experiments—one with politicians and another with students—as well as an online experiment (total n = 5,145), we test whether women and racial/ethnic minorities benefit from explicitly mentioning their demographic identity in requests for help, for example, by including statements like “As a Black woman…” in their communications. We propose that when a help seeker highlights their marginalized identity, it may activate prospective helpers’ motivations to avoid prejudiced reactions and increase their willingness to provide support. Here we show that when women and racial/ethnic minorities explicitly mentioned their demographic identity in help-seeking emails, politicians and students responded 24.4% (7.42 percentage points) and 79.6% (2.73 percentage points) more often, respectively. These findings suggest that deliberately mentioning identity in requests for help can improve outcomes for women and racial/ethnic minorities.

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Fig. 1: Reply rates to emails across conditions in Study 1.
Fig. 2: Reply rates to emails from women and/or racial/ethnic minorities (relative to white male help seekers) across conditions in Study 1.
Fig. 3: Percentage of emails that yielded volunteers across conditions in Study 2.

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Data availability

De-identified participant data from Studies 1, 2 and 3 are permanently and publicly available in an OSF folder at There are no restrictions on data availability. These data include information about participant responses, condition assignment and any preregistered control variables for each of our studies. The OSF folder also includes preregistrations for Studies 1, 2 and 3 as well as a copy of our Supplementary Information, which contains further details about our experimental methods and results (for example, stimulus language, screenshots of surveys shared with participants in Study 3 and results of robustness checks). Figures that have associated raw data include Figs. 1, 2 and 3. The raw data for these figures are also included in the OSF folder. Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

The code to replicate the analyses in the manuscript and our Supplementary Information is available permanently and publicly in an OSF folder at


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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under grant no. DGE-1845298 (awarded to E.L.K.) and the Wharton School. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript. We are grateful to A. Duckworth, J. Kessler, A. Rees-Jones, I. Silver and attendees at the Society for Judgment and Decision Making conference for their feedback. We also thank K. Shonk and K. Brabaw for providing editorial input on this manuscript and the Wharton Behavioural Lab for their assistance in gathering data for this research. Finally, we are grateful to the many research assistants who helped us make this work possible, particularly K. Herrera, M. Chung, M. Huang, C. Kornicker and G.M. Waldman.

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Authors and Affiliations



E.L.K., A.R., E.H.C. and K.L.M. designed and performed the research. E.L.K. and A.R. analysed the data. E.L.K. wrote the paper. A.R., E.H.C. and K.L.M. provided critical feedback on the paper. E.L.K. prepared the supplementary materials.

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Correspondence to Erika L. Kirgios.

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Nature Human Behaviour thanks the anonymous reviewers for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Information

Additional details for Supplementary Methods for Studies 1–3, Tables 1–24 and Fig. 1, and screenshots from surveys used in Studies 2 and 3.

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Kirgios, E.L., Rai, A., Chang, E.H. et al. When seeking help, women and racial/ethnic minorities benefit from explicitly stating their identity. Nat Hum Behav 6, 383–391 (2022).

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