Can bright light spur honesty?

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Can people make moral choices based on how bright the lighting is? Given that light and darkness have always been symbols of good and evil respectively ( more crimes are committed at night than in the day, presumably for the sheer fact that it’s easier to get away), experts hypothesized that brightness can actually influence moral behavior.

Researchers found that bright lights make an individual more honest, altruistic and ethical, and less selfish.

Experiments under 3 levels of brightness
In order to investigate the extent to which lighting conditions would affect people’s honesty and well intentions, researchers from National Sun Yat-sen University, Taiwan conducted a series of experiments.

The trials were conducted with three levels of brightness under 12, eight, and four fluorescent lights.

In one laboratory experiment, men and women were asked to play a game that involved sharing the cash bonus amongst themselves and a stranger reportedly in another room. Since the trial was designed to gauge the affect of light on moral behavior, the subjects were left to distribute the money themselves.

Revelations of the study
It was noted that participants playing in the well-lit room offered around 15 per cent more cash earned in the game than those in the moderately lit room, and around 30 per cent more than the people gaming in the dimmest room.

The honesty rate as per the investigators calculations was 85.2 per cent for people in the well-lit room, 70.4 per cent for those in the moderately lit room, and 51.9 per for individuals who played under dim lighting.

The researchers stated, “We provide the first experimental evidence showing that brightness appears to heighten the salience of morality to the individual, thereby leading people to perform ethical deeds. We suggest that brightness may enhance the self-importance of morality and thereby increase ethical behaviour.”

The findings are reported in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

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