Why does it matter which way the escalator is going?
I read this passage in Charles Montgomery’s excellent Happy City, and I can’t figure it out. I find it intriguing, puzzling, weird, and beautiful all at the same time. And I have no idea what to make of it. If anyone knows of interest work done on these topics, I’d be keen to hear about that.
...while most of us agree that it would be foolish to let the temperature of our hands dictate how we should deal with strangers, lab experiments show that when people happen to be holding a hot drink rather than a cold one, they are more likely to trust strangers. Another found that people are much more helpful and generous when they step off a rising escalator than when they step off a descending escalator — in fact, ascending in any fashion seems to trigger nice behaviour.*
*Observing shoppers at a mall, University of North Carolina researchers found that twice as many people stepping off a rising escalator donated to a Salvation Army fund-raiser than did people stepping off a descending escalator. They also found that people who had just watched film clips of views from an airplane window were much more cooperative in computer games than people who had watched clips showing scenes from a car window. The same relationship between altitude and altruism appeared in several experiments. The researchers suggest that being high up, or the mere act of ascending, reminds us of lofty ways of thinking and behaving.