Businessman and Homeless Man Fall Down: Would You Help?

A man, walking with a crutch, falls down. Would you help? Of course, you say? Would the man's appearance matter?

Be honest now.

Diego Dolciami and Matteo Moroni of DM Pranks decided to stage a social experiment in Italy. They filmed two scenarios: the first was with a well-dressed "businessman" in a suit. The second was with a homeless man in ragged clothing, carrying what seems to be his whole worldly possessions. In both instances, the men walked with a cane and fell down in front of strangers (both men and women).

Then, Dolciami and Moroni watched whether passers-by would help. They repeated the experiment 10 times each, and came to this shocking - or, depending on your point of view, obvious - conclusion that our decision to help someone in need is absolutely colored by our judgment of that person.

In 10 out of 10 cases, the businessman was helped by passers-by. But only 2 out of 10 instances was the homeless man rescued. Some people saw the homeless man fell down but hesitated to help, some approached but backed away when they saw the ragged clothings, and some didn't even stop at all.

Before you tsk, tsk-ed the choice of the people in the video clip, ask yourself what you would do. Would you be afraid that the homeless man might be crazy and try to hurt you if you tried to help? Maybe he's dirty and smelled bad?

What would you do?


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I probably wouldn't help either of them to be honest. I'd probably do what some of those people did. Kinda hover to make sure they're ok, but still keep my distance when it's obvious they're fine.
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In Italy, I would assume that it's a beggar, pretending to fall down to gain sympathy.
I probably wouldn't bother helping the businessman either. I guess I would assume it's a distraction in either event. I've seen too many thieves in Italy. Here at home, I may be more helpful.
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If someone fell down I would not help unless I saw bleeding or heard them cry out in serious pain. I won't leave if it seems like you're having trouble, but I wouldn't trust either of those scenarios. I would, however, insist my husband help. He's a large man and can hold his own if something were to happen and I would be there to help if needed. I would never want my husband to help in a scenario like this without a second pair of eyes present.
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To be brutally honest, I would be hesitant to help anyone who fell down, even if it's a sexy woman in very revealing clothes. I am a heartless libertarian social darwinist after all.
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I would try to help the homeless man, but I would have to deliberately set aside my prejudices, judgement and fear. I first feel that the man fell because of self-induced impairment from intoxication, and so the fall is a natural consequence of his choices, and not a tragedy. I would also feel that falling is probably a frequent and normal part of the man's daily activities, and so he would be prepared to deal with it himself. Finally, I would be concerned that he would possibly misunderstand and attack me, or would somehow soil me by contact because of dirt or disease.
However, I have worked in my church's homeless outreach ministry for many years, and have come to regard many homeless or home-insecure people in my city as friends or frequent contacts whose situation is not as simple as I had first assumed. I have also come to regard their care and respect as my own responsibility: a privilege and burden gifted to me by my God, and so I am compelled to be compassionate and give assistance.
Because of this, I have had experience with the discipline of disregarding my natural defensive thoughts and attitudes in order to obey the command to follow the example of the 'Good Samaritan'. It is no easy thing, and I can understand the compelling impulse to ignore a fallen homeless, poor, smelly and strangely-behaving person.
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