Kindness of Strangers 2009

In collaboration with David Hartmann.

This project was completed in two parts. The first was a scientific investigation that used a simple experiment to determine “the kindness of strangers.” A nonemergency helping scenario was presented to drivers passing through a particular entrance of 52 different Wal-Mart parking lots in which an experimenter was leaning on a car with its hood propped open, reading a map. The other experimenter remained in the car, and recorded the apparent gender and approximate age of all drivers in passing cars. The female and male investigators played each role 26 times. Demographic data for the zip codes where we tested were correlated with the amount of help received. Comparing means, the female experimenter received four times more help, and female drivers offered four times less help than males. The data was collected over three weeks in January of 2009 in 52 different cities in the Southeast United States (Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina).

The second piece of this project manifested as a written journal available in blog form to the public. My research partner and I committed to staying with strangers we met on for the duration of the three weeks of experimenting (with the exception of camping one night in Tennessee). We met people who were more generous than anyone we had ever known before. This project really affected my personal disposition by making me believe in the kindness of strangers. This trip expanded my ability to embark on new situations with an open mind.