Do Good Guys Really Finish Last? (A recent finding suggests not!)

Donald Miller

So I heard about a study this morning regarding crime. A researcher intentionally left a lot of loose change on his floor and seats and then dropped off his car at a car wash. He did this hundreds of times to see how often some of his change would be stolen.

Turns out, he was actually robbed one-third of the time. Not too bad, but not too great, either. I was rather surprised it was even that often. I’ve not locked the door to my house in five years. Maybe I should start.

After arriving at an initial percentage chance of being stolen from, the researcher began to experiment with various conditions, and he found his chances of being stolen from went way up if he left evidence in his car of what he called deviant behavior.

*Photo by Victor Martinez, Creative Commons

He put a copy of Maxim Magazine and two crushed beer cans in the backseat and the amount of times he was robbed went way up.

It turns out that deviants (again, as the researcher called them) prey more on each other than they do on people who seem to have higher morals.

The thinking goes like this: A deviant feels bad about stealing from an innocent victim, but justified in stealing from somebody who likely has loose morals to begin with. In fact, when a Maxim and beer cans were in the car, both the frequency of the crime and the amount of money stolen both increased. If you’ve got beer can in your car, you can count on being robbed at a car wash 50% of the time. That’s an astounding number.

So how does this translate into life? Well, as much as chicks dig bad guys, we might be better off trading bad for strong. And there’s a difference. Strength is about refusing to be a victim while deviance is about “getting away with it.”

It means little when we are talking about car washes, but the psychological truth likely has implications in our everyday lives.

Spent much time talking around the coffee machine at the office about cheating on your taxes, your girlfriend or boyfriend, stealing music from the internet? You might be setting yourself up for trouble returned. People, it turns out, will not feel the need to be so moral with you when you aren’t such a moral person yourself. Who wants to pay for lunch for a guy who steals all his movies and music?

Maybe being good isn’t so bad afterall.

Here’s a link to the study spoken of on NPR:

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller has been telling his story for more than a decade, now he wants to help you tell yours. He’s helped over 1,000 companies clarify their message through the StoryBrand Workshops. For an introduction to what he’s doing now, check out the 5 Minute Marketing Makeover.