Experiments with People: Revelations from Social Psychology

By Robert P. Abelson; Kurt P. Frey et al. | Go to book overview

18
The Unhurried
Samaritan:
When Context
Determines Character

“Where are they who claim kindred with the unfortunate?”

—Caroline Lamb (1785–1828), English novelist


BACKGROUND

The experiments in this volume might be dubbed empirical parables (Ross & Nisbett, 1991). Empirical in the sense that their findings derive from controlled observations, and parables because they offer a profound, sometimes even moral, punchline. We now describe an experiment that is based on an actual parable, one that has no doubt inspired many a Sunday sermon:

“And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Mow 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 on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two dennarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when 1 come back. ” Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to him who fell among the robbers? He said, “The

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