Taking the moral high ground: People are more generous 'when positioned physically higher than others'
There really is such a thing as the moral high ground after all.
Scientists have discovered that people are more generous and willing to help when they are physically higher than others.
In the first of a series of bizarre experiments, commuters gave more money to a charity collector at the top of an escalator than one at the bottom.
All in the positioning: Scientists have discovered that people are more generous, compassionate and willing to help when they are physically higher
In another, volunteers were found to be more generous with their time if standing on a higher spot than others.
And in a third, people were less likely to inflict punishment on
another person if they had just ascended steps – and were crueller if
they had gone down stairs.
The link between height and morality may sound unlikely, but
psychologists say there are plenty of clues linking the two from
People talk about putting other people on pedestals, looking up to those they admire or taking the moral high ground.
The researchers believe that the use of metaphors linking height with good behaviour affects how people behave in real life
They also talk about sinking to new depths, scraping the barrel and looking down on people.
Dr Lawrence Sanna, of the University of North Carolina, believes that
the use of metaphors linking height with good behaviour affects how
people behave in real life.
In New Scientist magazine, he said of the escalator experiment:
‘Shoppers who rode the up escalator contributed more often than those
who rode down.
‘Experiencing elevated physical height increased the virtuous act of making real charitable contributions.’
In another experiment 60 volunteers were asked to allocate an amount
of hot chilli sauce to be eaten by a fictitious stranger whom they were
told disliked hot food. Those who had been taken up to a stage dished
out less than half the amount than those who had been taken down to an
The findings don’t just have implications for charities.
It is thought that bosses might boost the helpfulness of their staff by holding meetings on the top floor of an office block – and that people should invite friends upstairs before asking for a favour.
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