New research in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, shows that darkness may also induce a psychological feeling of illusory anonymity, just as children playing “hide and seek” will close their eyes and believe that other cannot see them, the experience of darkness, even one as subtle as wearing a pair of sunglasses, triggers the belief that we are warded from others’ attention and inspections.
Psychological scientists Chen-Bo Zhong, Vanessa K. Bohns (both of University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management), and Francesca Gino (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) conducted three experiments to test whether darkness can license dishonest and self-interested behaviors. In the first experiment, participants were placed in a dimly or well-lit room and received a brown envelope that contained $10 along with one empty white envelope. They were then asked to complete a worksheet with 20 matrices, each consisting of 12 three-digit numbers. The participants had five minutes to find two numbers in each matrix that added up to 10. The researchers left it up to the participants to score their own work and for each pair of numbers correctly indentified they could keep $0.50 from their supply of money. At the end of the experiment, the participants were asked to place the remainder of their money into the white envelope on their way out. While there was no difference in actual performance, participants in the slightly dim room cheated more and thus earned more undeserved money than those in a well-lit room.
(Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/childofwar/3905816711/ / CC)