Altitude and Attitude

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Apr 1, 2011

A recent article in Scientific American cited a correlation between altitude and attitude. Describing four different experiments, researchers concluded that physical elevation seemed to connect to generosity, kindness, and cooperation.

This is what they found:

1. At a mall, shoppers who had gone up an escalator gave more to the Salvation Army than those who traveled down.

2. In a theater, people who went up to the stage were more likely to volunteer to fill in a questionnaire than those taken down to the orchestra pit.

3. Asked how much “painfully” hot sauce to give participants in a supposed food tasting study, people up on a stage gave less than those distributing the sauce in the orchestra pit.

4. For a computer game involving cooperation, people who had just watched scenes from an airplane were more agreeable than those who had looked through a car window.

The Economic Lesson

The popular books written by Duke economist Dan Ariely and the work of Princeton psychologist Daniel Kahneman who won the Nobel Prize in economics remind us that economics and psychology intertwine.

Similarly, by relating self-interest to altitude and attitude, we can again see the psychological territory that economics can occupy.



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