Fascinating range of behaviors exposed by socio-pyschological experiment
You’ve probably heard the expression, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” Well in Australia, that doesn’t seem to be the case. In May, RaboDirect conducted an unusual social experiment to see how Aussies would react when presented with a tree full of money. The bank placed a tree full of $5 notes in Syndey’s Fleet Park, then used hidden cameras to record people’s reactions.
At first, people passed the tree without noticing. Then passers-by simply ignored the cash, while a few took pictures of it. But after a slow start, the tree was stripped bare in under three hours. Opportunists worked together and employed various means to maximize their haul.
The experiment revealed a fascinating range of reactions, something RaboDirect and psychologist Rob Hall broke down into the following six categories:
- Lost Opportunity — The first 100 people passed without reacting at all. Even when a group of joggers noticed, they were too busy to stop. The first groups who eventually stopped to interact couldn’t believe it. They inspected the notes and took pictures, but left empty handed.
- Follow the Crowd — Only once one brave participant started taking the money, did momentum gather. Legitimised by the crowd, a wide spectrum of behaviour ensued.
- Frugality — Some took just one or two notes, satisfied by their modest and unexpected gains.
- Opportunist — Consumed by the fantasy, a group of braver participants made the most of the opportunity by filling their pockets.
- Employing Tools and Working Together — When the low hanging $5 notes were depleted, participants employed tools such as swinging coats and umbrellas, to help them reach higher branches. Teamwork also came into play as spectators formed human pyramids to reach the notes seemingly out of reach.
- Altruism — Perhaps the most comforting observation from the participants was that of altruism. Taller participants shared their earnings with shorter spectators, while one gentleman on identifying the undercover observation team, requested his money be donated to charity.
The Money Tree experiment was developed by PR agency Zing. RaboDirect used the stunt as a PR ploy to drive to a microsite about the bank’s High Interest Savings Account, which is currently paying a variable rate of 6.40% on new deposits.