Darkness Spurs Dishonesty
Dim Lighting and Sunglasses Encourage Unethical Behavior in Study
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 19, 2010 -- Dim lighting encourages dishonest and unethical behavior, a
new study finds.
In three different experiments, researchers found that people behaved more
selfishly and dishonestly when working in a dimly lit room or when wearing
"Our results suggest that darkness, even experienced one-sidedly through the
act of wearing sunglasses, can have potentially harmful consequences. Thus,
[Ralph Waldo] Emerson may have been correct when he stated that good lamps are
the best police," write researcher Chen-Bo Zhong, PhD of the University of
Toronto and colleagues in Psychological Science.
Dishonesty Loves Darkness
In the first experiment, researchers found that people working in a dimly
lit room were more likely to cheat about their own performance on a task in
order to earn more money than people working in a well-lit room.
In two additional experiments, they found that people wearing sunglasses
while playing a computer-bargaining game behaved more selfishly than those
wearing clear glasses.
Across all three experiments, researchers say darkness did not have any
effect on actual anonymity. In each case, the participants were able to clearly
see and identify each other.
But people wearing sunglasses reported feeling more anonymous, and in each
of the experiments darkness increased dishonesty and unethical behavior.
"We contend that darkness may create a sense of illusory anonymity
that disinhibits self-interested and unethical behaviors," the researchers
write. "Darkness appears to induce a false sense of concealment, leading people
to feel that their identities are hidden."