The Biblical story of the Good Samaritan, if you hadn't heard, is about a passing Samaritan helping an injured man in need, while other, self-righteous types walk right on by. Psychologists John Darley and C. Daniel Batson wanted to test if religion has any effect on helpful behavior.
Their subjects were a group of seminary students. Half of the students were given the story of the Good Samaritan and asked to perform a sermon about it in another building. The other half were told to give a sermon about job opportunities in a seminary.
As an extra twist, subjects were given different times that they had to deliver the sermon so that some would be in a hurry and others not.
Then, on the way to the building, subjects would pass a person slumped in an alleyway, who looked to be in need of help. We like to think Darley and Batson beat the crap out of some random dude to make it more realistic, but sources say otherwise.
C. Daniel Batson probably did not beat a homeless dude
The people who had been studying the Good Samaritan story did not stop any more often than the ones preparing for a speech on job opportunities. The factor that really seemed to make a difference was how much of a hurry the students were in.
In fact, if pressed for time, only 10 percent would stop to give any aid, even when they were on their way to give a sermon about how awesome it is for people to stop and give aid. Though to be fair, if you were late for a class, did your professor ever accept, "I had to stop and help a wounded traveler" as an excuse? Probably not unless you could produce the guy's blood-stained shirt as evidence.
What This Says About You:
As much as we like to make fun of, say, anti-gay congressmen who get caught gaying it up in a men's bathroom and pointing out Al Gore's resource-hogging mansion ...
... the truth is us common folk are just as likely to be hypocrites as the politicians. After all, it's much easier to talk to a room full of people about helping strangers than, say, actually touching a smelly and bleeding homeless man. So even pointing out their hypocrisy becomes a form of hypocrisy.
And in case you thought these results were just restricted to hypocritical seminary students, turn on the news. Remember a few years ago when cameras captured at least a dozen cars refusing to stop for an injured woman laying in the road?
Just like the students, they all had to be somewhere. The drivers were presumably proud enough of themselves just for swerving to miss her, rather than squishing her like roadkill.
Which brings us to ...