Good Samaritan

On Sunday, Aaron showed us a great example of the power of concise copywriting viewed through the lens of a homeless man at an intersection. One thing Aaron left out was whether or not he gave the man any money to purchase a new tent.

Knowing Aaron like I do, I know he is a nice dude, so I would be inclined to guess that he did help the man.

But what if I told you that the likelihood of him making a donation had very little to do with how nice he is and more to do with how much of a hurry he was in. That is exactly what experimenters wanted to find out when they conducted a study with Princeton University theological students.

In 1973, psychologists Darley and Batson performed and experiment with 67 students from the Princeton Theological Seminar. The students were told they were to take place in a study of religious education and were asked to fill out some personality questionnaires. Following the questionnaire, the students would then have to give a presentation in a nearby room on the Good Samaritan story from the Bible.

In the hallway between the study room and the room where the presentation was to happen, Darley and Batson set up a man to act in distress. He was to appear crouched over, eyes closed, coughing and spluttering. Every participant would have to pass by the man, and the experimenters wanted to see who would stop and help.

Before Darley and Batson viewed what took place in the hallway, they split the students into groups. They told one group that they were late for the presentation and they really needed to hurry. And they told another group that they had all the time in the world and there was no need to rush.

Darley and Batson found that how religious a person was didn’t predict whether they would help or not. The thing that predicted whether the students would help or not was if they felt that they were in a hurry.

Only 10 percent of the participants that were in a hurry stopped to help the man. The participants who weren’t in a hurry, 63 percent of those stopped to help the man.

Ironically, a hurried person is less likely to stop and help, even if he is in a hurry to speak about the parable of the Good Samaritan. Makes me think that maybe the Samaritan from the Bible wasn’t so “good” after all, rather he just had nowhere to go.

Going back to Aaron’s story, I guess this poor man could take his great copywriting and find an intersection where people are not in a rush, and he will have a new tent in no time.


Photo credit: Wikipedia