Darkness Correlates with Increases in Dishonesty and Self-Interested Behavior
Introduction (Via Sagepub)
Darkness can conceal identity and encourage moral transgressions; it may also induce a psychological feeling of illusory anonymity that disinhibits dishonest and self-interested behavior regardless of actual anonymity. Three experiments provided empirical evidence supporting this prediction. In Experiment 1, participants in a room with slightly dimmed lighting cheated more and thus earned more undeserved money than those in a well-lit room. In Experiment 2, participants wearing sunglasses behaved more selfishly than those wearing clear glasses. Finally, in Experiment 3, an illusory sense of anonymity mediated the relationship between darkness and self-interested behaviors. Across all three experiments, darkness had no bearing on actual anonymity, yet it still increased morally questionable behaviors. We suggest that the experience of darkness, even when subtle, may induce a sense of anonymity that is not proportionate to actual anonymity in a given situation.
Additional Excerpt (Via Sagepub)
Departing from this body of work, we suggest that darkness does more than simply produce conditions of actual anonymity. We contend that darkness may create a sense of illusory anonymity that disinhibits self-interested and unethical behaviors. Individuals in a room with slightly dimmed lighting or people who have donned a pair of sunglasses may feel anonymous not because the associated darkness significantly reduces others’ ability to see or identify them, but because they are anchored on their own phenomenological experience of darkness. When individuals in such circumstances experience darkness and, consequently, impaired vision, they generalize that experience to others, expecting that others will conversely have difficulty perceiving or seeing them.
Excerpted Finding (Via Sagepub)
Previous studies have treated darkness as just one of many factors that induce a state of deindividuation (e.g., Zimbardo, 1969), but out studies suggest that the experience of darkness, combined with the difficulty of transcending one’s own phenomenological experience, triggers a fundamental psychological belief that one is protected from others’ attention and inspections. Our results suggest that darkness, even experienced one-sidedly through the act of wearing sunglasses, can have potentially harmful consequences. Thus, Emerson may have been correct when he stated that good lamps are the best police.