Diligent readers of Cracked already know that our brains can be tricked by just about anything: manipulated images, our birth order and shiny things. But we can also be tricked into being generous, good people by our surroundings.
Of course, it goes the other way, too. Your morality at any given moment can be influenced by ...
Obviously, we are more honest when someone (or a security camera) is watching us, but studies have actually shown that if any depiction of an eye is in view, even if it is cartoonish or nonhuman, it makes people less likely to cheat or to behave immorally.
Put the bong down until the article is over.
In one experiment, all a professor had to do to drastically influence the actions of her colleagues was change the clip art on a piece of paper. They did the test in a teachers lounge, where the staff enjoyed a coffee/tea station that ran on the honor system. Teachers were welcome to help themselves, but a notice posted near the station asked users to pay for their coffee in the honesty box.
A picture of a cartoon eye was placed at the top of the reminder notice, and the amount of money left in the honesty box tripled.
Just to be sure it wasn't a coincidence, the next week the eye was replaced with a flower. Contributions went back to normal. Somehow, the subtle reminder of being watched made people way more honest.
Putting this poster in your bedroom will not get you laid.
But we've not only been programmed to fear the all-seeing eye, we have also been warned since childhood that otherworldly, omnipresent forces are also watching us, all the damn time. Whether it's Santa knowing our sleeping patterns or God himself hovering over our every move like a holy hawk, many of us were told that an invisible something was watching and keeping score. As a result, even if you're an atheist, any reference to God seems to make you more generous with your money and more moral in general.
In one experiment, subjects played a game in which they unscrambled words, then decided what to do with a pot of fake money. When the unscrambled words evoked God in some way, the money was given to anonymous strangers more generously -- yes, even if the unscramblers were nonbelievers. When the unscrambled words spelled out neutral concepts, the participants were more stingy. It just takes the slightest of reminders that somewhere, somehow, someone is watching you.
Always watching you.
On a similar note ...
Obviously, more crimes are committed at night than in the day, presumably for the sheer fact that it's easier to get away. But oddly enough, even otherwise law-abiding people make moral choices based on how bright the lighting is -- regardless of whether other people can still see them. Dim light simply makes people less honest and more likely to cheat.
None of those dim kids have their hands raised.
And we're not talking really low lighting, where it could maybe create the illusion that you're hidden -- just slightly lower lighting is enough. In this study, participants were divided between a well-lit room and a dimly lit room, then asked to take a test. For every answer they got right, they got to keep 50 cents from an envelope containing $10. The catch was that they graded their own tests. Of the two groups, the dimly lit ones were more likely to cheat and to claim they got more right than they actually did.
Oh, and get this -- in another experiment, half of the subjects were asked to wear sunglasses, then allocate a portion of $6 to a stranger. SURPRISE! The cool kids in the shades were less generous than their nonshaded counterparts.
These people will donate a combined total of $14 over the next five years. Mostly by accident.
That's right -- because we have a harder time seeing people, we assume they have a harder time seeing us, even when every logical fiber of our being tells us that is obviously bullshit. Apparently this is because deep down, we're just little toddlers thinking no one can see us if our eyes are covered.
This apparent invisibility makes us more likely to be dishonest on any level, whether it is lying in an email while in a dim office, cheating on our significant other in a dark club or shortchanging that annoying customer in an under-lit coffee shop.
Above: Everything you need to know about human psychology.
Quick, fill in the missing letters of these words:
Don't worry, there are no right or wrong answers -- we will simply be judging the cleanliness of your soul based on what you say. According to scientists, if your answers included WASH, SHOWER or SOAP, you might subconsciously feel bad about something and want to metaphorically clean yourself off. Because apparently, a guilty conscience makes us want to get clean.
Boil the lies from your filthy bones.
In one study, participants who related a past misdeed to interviewers were more likely to then fill in word puzzles with cleaning-related words rather than words such as "with," "wish" or "shop." Anytime subjects were made to think about doing something wrong, they gravitated toward things that made them feel clean.
In a different experiment, subjects were asked to copy first-person fictional stories, then rate the desirability of certain products. The people who wrote out stories featuring a scheming, lying protagonist favored cleaning products, while people who wrote out stories with nice-guy protagonists were more random in their selections.
It's called the "Lady Macbeth effect," and unfortunately, it works just as well the other way. While doing something wrong makes you feel dirty, feeling clean turns you into an asshole. Washing or wiping our hands seems to induce a moral cleansing effect in us. So you are actually less likely to be helpful and more likely to lie to someone if you have just washed up.
Time to go inconvenience some cripples!
We don't know if anyone has ever said this before, but Shakespeare was a genius.