Funny thing about humans: most of us think we’re pretty okay, well-intentioned people. But how far do those intentions go? When push comes to shove, can we really be trusted to do the right thing?
That’s the question implicit in many social experiments, which seek to look beyond what we think we’d do, and instead catch a glimpse of what we’d actually do. Then again, with so many YouTubers desperately throwing out social experiment videos, maybe the rest of us will spend our time wondering if that weird thing we’re witnessing is part of some video: Genuine reactions might be going the way of the dodo.
There are also a few other problems with these videos. For starters, there’s no guarantee that what you’re seeing isn’t cut just to elicit a particular reaction from the viewer. Proper studies of this sort are supposed to document how the data were collected, and there’s no such requirement in place for people posting these sorts of videos to Youtube. Still, even if these videos aren’t as honest as we’d like – and that’s not to say they definitely aren’t – we can still infer at least something about society by watching them. Check out these six social experiments, think about how you might have reacted, and think about how you want to react after you’ve considered things. You might just learn something about yourself.
6 Cell Phone Crashing
Admittedly, this is just a silly video series, but there’s something nice about the way most people react to having their cell phone “crashed.” In these videos, comedian Greg Benson, who seems like the friendliest guy around, walks up to people on their cell phones and loudly replies to their conversations while pretending to talk on his phone.
It’s one of those things that you might think would get people angry, but most people react with, if not laughter, confusion. Let’s be honest – what he’s doing is a little invasive, and most people would hate the idea that a stranger is listening in on their call. Still, when the worst you get is people being utterly confused at your weirdness, that kind of speaks to the status of the human race as a whole. We might be angry a lot of the time, and we’re suspicious beyond reason, but we can take a gentle ribbing.
5 The “Carlsberg Experiment”
This video is pretty hilarious, but it also points out something about us that we might not care to admit: we judge people on their appearance. Big time.
What the Carlsberg experiment did was take a cinema, fill it with intimidating folks with tattoos, leather, and shaved heads, and then have couples walk in to watch their film, only to be met with a crowd that wouldn’t look out of place at a biker gang convention.
Now, there are two things we can take away from this video: The video shows that you don’t have to be afraid of people based on what they look like, and that’s generally true. It also proves that there are some people out there with no common sense whatsoever.
Look, I like movies as much as the next person. You know when I’m not going to sit down to watch a movie? When it puts me smack in the middle of 150 dudes who look like the farm team for the Hell’s Angels. The point is, this is one of those rare social experiment videos where you can’t really pick one side and call it right. Safety vs. being defiantly politically correct? Don’t make me choose.
4 Stealing From The Homeless
A cheeky bit of feminist activism, “Stealing From the Homeless” by Model Pranksters shows us what happens when a pretty woman steals money from the homeless, and the reaction when men steal money from the homeless. Guess what happens?
If you guessed that nobody did anything when the woman stole, you’re bang on the money. Only one person stopped her and demanded that she return the money, while the man was confronted almost immediately for having stolen. Criminals can come in all shapes and sizes, and this is a gentle reminder to us that a crime is a crime, regardless of who the perpetrator is and what they look like. We shouldn't be afraid to speak up when a woman breaks the law. We’ll clearly do it when a man is behind the crime, and it’s 2014 - no time for discrimination, positive or otherwise.
3 The Fat Girl/Fat Guy Tinder Videos
If you don’t live under a rock, you’ve probably seen these videos, or at least seen somebody post them to Facebook in the past couple of weeks. In one, guys agree to a Tinder date with a slim woman, only to meet up with her while she’s wearing a fat suit. It’s the reverse in the other, with women agreeing to a date with a fit man, and meeting for a date while he’s wearing a fat suit.
The women who meet the man all seem to stay for at least a polite amount of time, while the men who encounter the woman...
... are visibly upset, and all but one leave fairly quickly. The point is that men and women react very differently to a) being lied to and b) unknowingly going out with a fat person. The thing is, though, that the beginning of the videos mentions that men’s greatest fear when going on an online date is that the person they meet will be fat. For women, the greatest fear is that they’ll be dating a serial killer. Whatever else there is to this, there’s no denying that when you set the bar that low, a few extra... dozen... pounds isn't going to make much of a difference.
So, yes, it’s good to spend the extra time to get to know a person, as most of the women do. But it’s also hard to argue that it’s not a turnoff to be lied to. Once again, it’s tough to fault either reaction.
2 “F*ck The Poor”
If you’re not drinking the Fox News Kool-Aid, you know that poverty isn’t an indication of laziness. Any number of issues can lead a person to find themselves destitute, and it’s unfortunately no easy thing to get out of the cycle of poverty in modern America. Thankfully, that’s a concept that most people can grasp. But do we care enough to help?
That’s the question being asked by The Pilion Trust Charity’s video “F*ck The Poor?” In it, we see a man wearing a sandwich board handing out flyers and saying “F*ck the poor” while doing so. People are predictably upset, and tell him off for being such a jerk. A police officer even steps in at one point, telling him “That is offensive.”
But that’s not the point. The point is that when the same man, in the same place, wears a sandwich board that says “Help The Poor” and rattles a cup of coins, looking for donations, nobody donates. It’s fine to speak out against those who say ignorant things about the disenfranchised but people aren't, apparently, so willing to actively help improve the situations of these people.
1 Missing Child
For this video, DmPranksProductions wanted to see if people would be present enough to recognize a missing child sitting alone in a park. They put up 50 posters in the area, all alerting passers-through that a boy named Cristian was missing, and included a couple of photos of the child. They then had the boy playing Cristian sit on a bench in the same park, looking forlorn.
It’s unsurprising and sad that people walking through the park often didn’t stop to help the boy. What’s worse, though, is that some people seem to recognize that he might be in trouble. They see him sitting alone, they’ve passed the posters, and they keep on walking.
Something happens, though, when people see others engaging the boy. They stop, and if they don’t go over themselves, they at least take an interest. There’s something about being the first to step outside a comfort zone and interact with a person in distress that's apparently hard for us to do. This has been called the “bystander effect,” an idea which states that the more people there are that witness something bad happening, the less likely each individual is to intervene. Whether that’s biological or social in nature is largely irrelevant. Videos like this should teach us to try to help those who need it, regardless of how it puts us out.