Hey, got any spare change?

Have you ever thought about stopping to drop some money into a collection box up ahead ... and then changed your mind? New research suggests that's probably because you were not impressed with the sign(s) above the box, the mix of bills and coins in it – or the absence thereof. The research was conducted by two New Zealanders. But on the premise that human behavior is basically the same all over, the findings probably apply anywhere. Economics lecturer John Randal of Victoria University in Wellington and colleague Richard Martin – in an exercise worthy of the "Candid Camera" TV series – filmed visitors to the city's public art gallery as they approached a prominently placed, clear plastic collection box in the lobby. If the researchers had left it empty, the visitors usually passed it by. Ditto if it was full. On the other hand, a mix of coins or small bills tended to be matched with donations of the same size. As for the signs, if they said "Thank You" in advance, gallerygoers were virtually certain not to drop any cash into the box. The visitors were equally unimpressed with a sign indicating that donations would be matched by a charitable foundation. One other finding: These behaviors tended to be most common among ... men.

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