Market Watch - People who shop at — or even stand near — luxury stores are significantly less likely than others to help those in need, according to a series of three experiments published in 2016 in the journal Social Influence.
In the first experiment — which took place on the Triangle d’Or in Paris, which is lined with high-end fashion shops — the researchers had a woman wearing a leg brace drop a package of candy and a bottle of water and struggle to pick them up. Just 35% of people who were leaving one of the luxury stores on the street helped the woman pick those items up. Meanwhile, when the researchers replicated the experiment on a street that wasn’t lined with shops, more than 77% of people helped the injured woman.
The second experiment took place on the place Vendome in Paris, which is lined with high-end jewelry and watch shops. The luxury shoppers on this street were asked by a woman pushing another woman in a wheelchair if they’d mind watching her disabled friend, who wasn’t able to sit alone, for a few minutes while she ran back into a store to get her cellphone. Just 23% of the people who were walking down the luxurious place Vendome agreed to stand with the woman in the wheelchair, while 82% of people walking down a residential street agreed to help.
In the final experiment, a woman asks pedestrians — some shopping on a street with all luxury stores, others on a street with both luxury and middle-priced shops (though the pedestrians were approached when they were near the middle-priced shops) and others on a street with no shops — if they can borrow the person’s cellphone. Just 41% of those on the luxury street lent the woman their phone, while 63% of those on the street with both luxury and middle-range stores did, and 74% of those on an ordinary street did.
From these three experiments, the researchers concluded that shopping in or being near a luxury store likely primed people with “environmental cues of materialism,” which then “increased self-enhancement and competitive values” which, in turn, decreased “trusting and benevolent behavior and a sense of being concerned about and connected to other people,” the authors write. In other words, the luxury stores made people feel more materialistic and self-centered, which meant they were less likely to help other people.