Why Darkness Breeds Shifty Behavior

Study: People are more devious when lighting is dim
By Jane Yager,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 4, 2010 6:35 AM CST

(Newser) – When it comes to the psychology of devious behavior, adults aren't much different from toddlers who cover their eyes with their hands to hide: We think that if we can't see, nobody can see us. So while there's nothing surprising about the fact that most crime occurs in the dark, a new study shows that the chance of getting caught isn't the only reason we behave badly when the lights are low.

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The study found that people in a dimly lit room cheated in a game far more than those playing the same game in a brightly lit room—even with no chance of getting caught in either case. The darkness effect applies to generosity as well as honesty: Study participants wearing sunglasses distributed money more selfishly than those wearing glasses with clear lenses, and those with shades reported that they'd felt more like nobody was watching them.
(Read more ethics stories.)

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