Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Darkness increases dishonest behavior, study shows

Date:
March 1, 2010
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
New research shows that darkness may induce a psychological feeling of illusory anonymity, just as children playing "hide and seek" will close their eyes and believe that other cannot see them, the experience of darkness, even one as subtle as wearing a pair of sunglasses, triggers the belief that we are warded from others' attention and inspections.

Darkness can conceal identity and encourage moral transgressions; thus Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in "Worship" in The Conduct of Life (1860), "as gaslight is the best nocturnal police, so the universe protects itself by pitiless publicity."

New research in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, shows that darkness may also induce a psychological feeling of illusory anonymity, just as children playing "hide and seek" will close their eyes and believe that other cannot see them, the experience of darkness, even one as subtle as wearing a pair of sunglasses, triggers the belief that we are warded from others' attention and inspections.

Psychological scientists Chen-Bo Zhong, Vanessa K. Bohns (both of University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management), and Francesca Gino (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) conducted three experiments to test whether darkness can license dishonest and self-interested behaviors. In the first experiment, participants were placed in a dimly or well-lit room and received a brown envelope that contained $10 along with one empty white envelope. They were then asked to complete a worksheet with 20 matrices, each consisting of 12 three-digit numbers. The participants had five minutes to find two numbers in each matrix that added up to 10. The researchers left it up to the participants to score their own work and for each pair of numbers correctly identified they could keep $0.50 from their supply of money. At the end of the experiment, the participants were asked to place the remainder of their money into the white envelope on their way out. While there was no difference in actual performance, participants in the slightly dim room cheated more and thus earned more undeserved money than those in a well-lit room.

In the second experiment, some participants wore a pair of sunglasses and others wore clear glasses while interacting with an ostensible stranger in a different room (in actuality participants interacted with the experimenter). Each person had $6 to allocate between him-or herself and the recipient and could keep what he or she didn't offer. Participants wearing sunglasses behaved more selfishly by giving significantly less than those wearing clear glasses.

In the third experiment, the scientists replicated the previous experiment and then measured the extent to which participants felt anonymous during the experiment. Once again, those wearing sunglasses gave significantly less money and furthermore, those wearing sunglasses reported feeling more anonymous during the study.

Across all three experiments, darkness had no bearing on actual anonymity, yet it still increased morally questionable behaviors. The researchers suggest that the experience of darkness may induce a sense of anonymity that is disproportionate from actual anonymity in a given situation. Zhong explains, "Imagine that a person alone in a closed room is deciding whether to lie to a total stranger in an email. Clearly, whether the room is well-lit or not would not affect the person's actual level of anonymity. Nevertheless, darkness may license unethical behavior in such situations."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Darkness increases dishonest behavior, study shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 March 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100301122344.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2010, March 1). Darkness increases dishonest behavior, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100301122344.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Darkness increases dishonest behavior, study shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100301122344.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) A new study says the season you're born in can determine your temperament — and one season has a surprising outcome. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Newsy (Oct. 17, 2014) In a ruling attorneys for both sides agreed was a first of its kind, a Georgia appeals court said parents can be held liable for what kids put online. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

Buzz60 (Oct. 17, 2014) Feeling down? Reach for the refrigerator, not the medicine cabinet! TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) shares some of the best foods to boost your mood. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
You Can Get Addicted To Google Glass, Apparently

You Can Get Addicted To Google Glass, Apparently

Newsy (Oct. 15, 2014) Researchers claim they’ve diagnosed the first example of the disorder in a 31-year-old U.S. Navy serviceman. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins