This I Believe

D.T. - Blue Point, New York
Entered on February 20, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65

The Blinker Hypothesis: A Research Study

A very wise man once said, “There are two types of people in this world: givers and takers” (1). This made us reflect. Although it seems simplistic, this categorical approach to defining fundamental human qualities does have merit. One look at the myriad behaviors of strangers in public, or friends and family in more private settings, clearly underscores this premise. People do behave many times in unmistakably generous or selfish ways. Some open doors for you, but others cut in line in front of you. Some bake cookies while others eat them all.

But can givers and takers be identified unambiguously independent of overt behavior? Certainly, complicated and subjective measures would not serve this purpose. For example, having individuals fill out long psychological questionnaires aimed at differentiating the thoughtful from the thoughtless would, no doubt, result in a skewed ratio favoring the former over the latter. Therefore, a simple, objective measure would be of more value with respect to the accurate placement of individuals in one category or the other.

Suggested in this study is a singular indicator: the use of the blinker when driving. Automobile drivers, for the most part, can be categorized as either those that signal or those that do not. As signaling is the legal, safe and courteous behavior, we believe that those who use their blinker are most likely givers. Since not signaling is illegal, unsafe and thoughtless, we take that as sign that the driver is a taker. The purpose of this study is to identify individuals as givers or takes based on whether they signal or not. More importantly, the cumulative data will tell us what percentage of the population are nice and thoughtful as opposed to rude and selfish.

The authors sat on a street corner up the block from their house for half an hour. In that time they counted how many cars turned using a blinker and how many did not. The analyzed data indicated that 68% were blinker users and 32% were not.

Conclusion: If the driving population of our small town reflects society in general then 32 % of Americans, and possibly all of humanity, are takers. This is clearly a bummer and probably the fundamental reason the world is such a mess. Not that we can do anything about it. But it’s good to know, anyway.

On a more practical level, identifying takers before they strike will be advantageous to givers. For instance, if the car behind you does not signal when turning into the movie theater parking lot, then don’t sit in the theater by that driver. Obviously a taker, that person will talk during the movie, answer their ringing cell phone and crinkle candy wrappers right behind you.

1. Personal Communication from Christian’s grandfather, Norman.