Seeing things in black and white can make you more judgmental, literally! A new study shows that people who look at things with black-and-white background are less likely to see moral dilemmas:
Schnall and her colleagues conducted a series of five experiments investigating both the black-and-white metaphor and the effect of "balance." In the first, they recruited 111 participants online through Amazon's crowd-sourcing website Mechanical Turk. Each participant read the fictional story of Heinz, a man forced to steal life-saving medication for his wife's cancer because he couldn't afford the drugs. After reading the story, the participants rated how moral Heinz's actions had been.
In some cases, participants saw this tale bordered by a black-and-white checkerboard. Others say a gray border. A third group saw a yellow-and-blue checkerboard.
The results revealed that people reported stronger judgments — both on the moral and immoral sides of the rating scale — when they had read the story against a black-and-white background. There was no difference between the gray and the colorful checkerboard.
"People gave more polarized judgments when they saw some black-and-white checkered background that was in principle irrelevant and incidental," Schnall said.