Kiera and I went to Thruway Shopping Center today to investigate the level of TRUST amongst Americans. Our first experiment, the "Drop a Dollar" test, didn't work out as we had intended. We walked around Borders, which was fairly busy, and dropped a dollar in various locations to see if anyone would return the dollar to one of us. We actually found after dropping the dollar several times, that no one even noticed. The shoppers were typically either sitting in a comfortable leather chair, engrossed in a book, or perusing shelves, their eyes focuses on something other than our $1 bill. From this point, we decided that this wasn't an accurate depiction of trust because people were neither responsible nor irresponsable. They simply did not notice.
We moved on to a second experiment that we thought would more accurately reflect the level of trust: "Could I borrow your cell phone, please?"
This experiment proved to be an interesting measure of trust. Not to our surprise, we received an overwhelming number of negative responses, and only a couple of willing participants. The following are some of our experiences with the local shoppers:
Participant: Older woman
Initial Reponse: "No"
Afterwards: She said that she lets strangers use her cell phone if it's an emergency. We also talked to her husband who said that he "never lets anyone borrow his cell phone" and that "people can't be trusted."
Participant: Two older women
Initial Response: "No"
Afterwards: They said that they "knew we would have had cell phones" and that "we didn't look like we had an emergency situation."
Participant: Young woman
Initial Response: She didn't even hesitate! She immediately pulled out her cell phone.
Afterwards: She said that she wanted to help us and she trusted us.
Participant: Mom with 2 kids
Initial Response: "Yes"
Afterwards: She told us that if we had been men, she would not have let us use her cell phone (Interesting!)
We concluded that for the most part, people don't trust strangers. Most of our participants said that even if they let someone use their cell phone, they would dial for them, but would not let them hold their cell phones. We also noticed that the older participants were the most stubborn about not lending their cell phones to a stranger, while younger participants, particularly moms, were the least hesitant.