Friday, September 30, 2011

Social Experiment and a Few Theories

So, related to my last post about loving convertibles, I took my mom's 'Stang out for a drive tonight.  I had some food with me but I didn't want to wrestle with the food, the driving, and keeping my clothes stain-free, so I pulled over to eat and enjoy the night sky and some tunes.  I stopped on a dark two-lane road, but it's well-traveled, so I didn't feel too alone or anything.  I put my parking lights on and enjoyed my chicken sandwich and french fries when all of a sudden, the radio stopped playing and the lights went dim.  I had killed my battery.

Like I said, there's usually a lot of traffic on the road, so I wasn't concerned about getting some help.  It was late and my parents were headed to bed as I was leaving the house, so I assumed that they'd surely be asleep by then, and since I was close to home, I decided not to call them for help.  I had jumper cables and someone would be along to help me soon.

Well, I turned off the parking lights, set up a warning triangle, and popped my hood so people would know I needed some help.  Cars passed.  More cars passed.  About three dozen cars passed.  I had waited for half an hour with no assistance rendered or even offered.  I finished my food and thought about calling in a favor from a friend, when I decided to make a social experiment of the evening.  It's been said that the more people there are in the vicinity who have the ability to help, the less people actually do help.  For example, if there are ten people surrounding an old woman who needs assistance, two will help her.  Logically then, if there were twenty people surrounding her, four would offer to help, but the paradox in the theory says that only one would, because the other nineteen would wait for someone else to help.  It's called the bystander effect and it gained international notoriety in the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese.  Kitty was brutally murdered in Queens, New York, and even though many of her neighbors heard the goings-on, no one called the police, according to popular report, simply because they assumed someone else would do it.

There are two explanations for group inaction.  One is called pluralistic ignorance, which states that, in a group setting, individuals will look around and gauge others' reactions to decide if action is necessary, but since everyone else is doing the same thing, no one acts. The other theory is called diffusion of responsibility, which is probably the theory that supports the events of Kitty's murder. The more people there are to do something, the easier it is for the individual to assume someone else will act.  I believe this is the case in my circumstance as well.  The leader of a pack of cars can easily assume that someone behind him will stop and help me, and the tail of a pack can assume that some other pack will be coming over the hill soon, and therefore, no one need help me.

Diffusion of responsibility also has other manifestations, but I don't care to go over them here and no one cares to read about them anyway, haha.

In any case, while waiting, I started pondering on some other contributing factors.  I was parked on the outskirts of an affluent and crime-free planned community, where there is a palpable (and quantifiable) attitude of entitlement and paranoia among the residents. In my theory, the two work hand in hand.  If we take the idea to its logical extreme (and it is just that), a driver leaving the community will fall into paranoia, assuming that places outside his utopia must be crime-ridden and dangerous.  Or he may think that he's above getting his hands dirty by jumping a battery or that his time is too valuable to be spent on the roadside.  Again, these are extremes and generalizations. I don't actually think someone thinks like that.

But pondering those generalizations, I began to believe them, which brings me to another epiphany I had. As I waited and watched car after car after car pass by, I began to hate the drivers just a little bit.  I assumed that they were too big for their britches and couldn't possibly deign to help a pleb like me.  Or I assumed that they saw a well-dressed, clean-cut kid driving a nice, expensive looking Mustang and still had the gumption to think I was a hood rat. I fell into a trap of generalizing and assuming others were out to get me and that every driver on the road must have been cooperating to keep me immobilized, and thus became as paranoid and entitled as the extreme in my head.  After all, what possible reason besides group ignorance could explain such behavior towards a person as deserving as me?

To make a long story short, a nice girl stopped, opened her hood, and let me jump my car with hers.  I even saw her pass by, make a U-turn in a neighborhood, and double back to help me, thus disproving my theory that all people are scum.  In the end, I got home grateful for her help and was brought back to reality that most of my theories are based in logical extreme, rather than fact, and I felt encouraged to give others the benefit of the doubt, rather than assume that they're selfish and timid sheep.

Not a bad way to spend the night, as it turned out.

1 comment:

  1. Have you now considered what your reaction will be, the next time you see a person by the side of the road with a popped hood?


Be nice, mmmmkay? I allow anonymous comments, but not anonymous (or even attributed) douchebaggery. The Gay Mormon Pioneer's tolerance for hate and venom are incredibly low, but his love of communication and debate are high, so have an opinion, but be kind and gentle when you share it.

Related Posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...