Episode 50: Psychological Study Ripped Straight from….the Bible?

How many scientific studies find their inspiration from a parable in the bible? Well, this one does and for my 50th episode I’ll go over a very interesting study based on the Good Samaritan parable. We’ll take another look at the topic of bystander intervention by asking the question: are people more likely to help someone if they are thinking “pious” thoughts at the time?
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After reviewing the study I’ll take a look at a couple articles that cite the good Samaritan parable and ask the question: what does the results of this study imply about the value of character education, virtues programs, codes of ethics, citizenship and ethical behavior in general?

The Good Samaritan Parable (Luke 10: 27-37)

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus…”And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down the road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by the other side. but a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? He said, The one who showed him mercy” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Resources on Helping Behavior

  • Darley, J. M. & Batson, C. D. (1973) From Jerusalem to Jericho: a study of situational and dispositional variables in helping behavior, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 27(1), 100 – 119.
  • Samuels, S.M. and Casebeer, W.D. (2005). A social psychological view of morality: why knowledge of situational influences on behaviour can improve character development practices. Journal of Moral Education, 34, 73-87.
  • Kotre, J. (1992). Experiments as Parables. American Psychologist, 672-673.

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Episodes on Bystander Intervention and other Good Stories

Other Experiments as Parables

  • Festinger, L., & Carlsmith, J. M. (1959). Cognitive consequences of forced compliance.
    Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 58, 203-210
  • Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral study of obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology,
    67, 371-378.
  • Asch, S. E. (1951). Effects of group pressure upon the modification and distortion of judgment. In H. Guetzkow (ed.) Groups, leadership and men. Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie Press.
  • Watson, J.B. & Rayner, R. (1920). Conditioned Emotional Reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 3, 1-14.

Comments

  1. says

    I wonder if the deception is enough in this experiment. I mean, let’s say that I go to a psychological experiment. There they ask me to write about the “Good Samaritan Parable” (one of the condition), then I’m on my way to the other building, and (Oh, what a co´ncidence!), Is stubble on someone in need. I don’t know, seems to me I would make an obvious connection, and suspect some sort of deception.

    Anyway, the results don’t seem to indicate that’s the case, but it seems strange to me.

  2. says

    I might agree with you there – it might seem odd to me too if I was a subject that I “just happened” to see someone in need. The only thing I can think of is that because this study took place in 1973 perhaps people (and seminary students in particular) weren’t that “savvy” about what the psychologists were really up to.

  3. says

    Check this paper.

    Greenwald, A. G. (1975). Does the Good Samaritan parable increase helping? A comment on Darley and Batson’s
    no-effect conclusion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32, 578-583.

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