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A Parking Meter Puzzle

Prejudice at the Parking Meter.

An interesting new study has just come out in the Journal of Applied Psychology. Amy Hendren and Hartmut Blank set up a field experiment where they had a person wearing a t-shirt approach strangers and ask for 10 pence to feed a parking meter. In all, 240 strangers were approached.

In some cases, the t-shirt displayed a neutral theme. In other cases, the man or woman playing the role of asking people for money wore a t-shirt with a pro-gay theme. When the man or woman wore a pro-gay t-shirt — and was presumably seen as a lesbian or a gay man or someone sympathetic to gay rights — significantly fewer strangers offered to part with the small amount of change being requested. Men, in particular, were far less likely to help the requester when he/she wore a gay-themed t-shirt.

It makes me think about my own split-second decisions when someone on the street asks me for a quarter. What about you?

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