To help or not to help? Supplementary evidence of the sunshine Samaritan

Genetic and environmental factors influence our behavior as human beings, but we all want to know the common internal and external elements that frequently make us experience either positive or negative emotions—joy or sadness, for example. Things such as music, the lighting in a room, pictures, videos, foods, drinks, and animals are just a list of several things that can instantly change a person’s mood, and therefore, their behavior towards others. Knowing that pleasant weather (i.e. sunshine) often elicits positive moods and social relations, Nicholas Guéguen and Lubomir Lamy investigated a question that still lingered in the area of social psychology: how does sunshine effect spontaneous behavior?

Even prior to the actual experiment, Guéguen and Lamy learned that sunshine affects human social interaction based off of the evidence that people were less reluctant to participate on days that were mostly sunny compared to days that were mostly cloudy. Why is this? There are a number of plausible answers, but considering that human behavior is clearly strongly associated with weather deviations—and behavior is strongly influenced by emotion—the most commonly supported answer is that good weather activates positive emotions, which motivates positive behavior and good social relations.

In their study, they conducted a field experiment using 221 men and 243 women (roughly between the ages of 20 and 50 years old) who were chosen at random while walking alone in the streets near the Atlantic Coast in France. Prior to actually collecting data, 20 men and 20 women between the same age range of participants in the experiment were asked to evaluate the weather on that particular day on a scale from 1 to 9 (1 being cloudy and 9 being sunny)—and the experiment was only executed on days where the assistants evaluated the day as being 1 to 3 (cloudy) or 7 to 9 (sunny) to ensure better control of weather conditions. Furthermore, in order to target the measurement of solely sunshine conditions rather than temperature conditions, the experiment was not done on days where the temperature elevated higher than 24 degrees Celsius or sunk lower than 20 degrees Celsius or when it was raining. On days when the experiment was carried out however, 8 male and female confederates (with an average age of 21 years old) individually approached random people on the street who fit the experiments criteria, walking approximately three meters ahead of them and intentionally dropping a glove from his or her handbag and making it appear as if they were completely unaware of his or her loss. If the subject warned the confederate about his or loss within 10 seconds after dropping the item, then two observers standing approximately 50 meters away from activity recorded the response. Otherwise, the confederate pretended as if he or she was in search for something in their handbag and turned around to pickup the glove without making eye contact with the participant.

Sunshine was the independent variable and the number of times help was offered was the dependent variable. On sunny days, 65.3 percent of participants spontaneously offered to help the confederate (156/239), while only 53.3 percent of participants spontaneously offered to help the confederate on cloudier days (120/225). These statistically significant results further support the previous discoveries made in a study by Michael Cunningham in 1979, though in his study, request for help was made verbally. The data from this study is evidence that suggests that the effect of sunshine on helping is likely mediated by a person’s mood—and a positive mood expands healthy relationships.

Guéguen, N., & Lamy, L. (2013). Weather and helping: Additional evidence of the effect of the sunshine Samaritan. The Journal Of Social Psychology, 153(2), 123-126. doi:10.1080/00224545.2012.720618

This entry was posted in PS253-2015. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.