The Good Samaritan Experiment

A Lamplighter Moment from Mark Hamby

In the book Wild Goose Chase I read about a study conducted by two Princeton University Psychologists that focused on the story of the Good Samaritan. Half of the seminary students were given an assignment to prepare a sermon on the Good Samaritan; the other half various topics. Once the assignment was completed, the student was then told to go to a certain building on campus to present their sermon.

 

But there was a setup that would take the students by surprise. An actor was hired to portray someone who was mugged and left beat up in an alley; the same alley that each student would have to pass on their way to the presentation building.  There was also one additional variable introduced by the researchers.  Some of the seminarians were told to hurry because they were running late while the others were told to take their time because they were early.

 

The researchers uncovered a surprising result.  Each student was confronted with what seemed to be a real-life situation of someone in need. But only 10% of the students who were told to hurry stopped to help. 63% of the students who were told that they had extra time offered assistance.

 

The researchers concluded that it didn’t matter if your life goal was to help people. What mattered most was that you were not living life in a hurry. The words, “You’re late” and “hurry” turned ordinarily compassionate people into people who were indifferent to suffering.

 

In 1 John 3 we read: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

 

I have to wonder if a hurried life restricts our ability to love meaningfully.


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