Undercover Carlos: Analysis of Behavior

By: Carlos Vergara Email
By: Carlos Vergara Email

May 24, 2010

CBS19's Carlos Vergara reflects on his three installments of this month's Undercover Carlos series.

After three weeks of Undercover Carlos, we've seen just about everything -- the good, the bad and the in between, where folks really didn't know how to react.

Some decisions were clear cut. For example, what to do when you see someone drop money that they saw fall out of someone else's pocket? Out of dozens of people who had the opportunity to pocket the cash, only two people made off with it, denying they even had it. One other person returned it, but only after we confronted him.

The fact that many more people went out of their way to be honest makes former Charlottesville Mayor Blake Caravati very happy.

Bobby Parmar and Andrew Wicks are experts in ethics at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business. They both agree that there are a lot of forces at play that help dictate whether someone would return the money or, even more, to pick up trash tossed by a litter bug as seen in our second installment.

In fact, in that Undercover Carlos, some people picked up after me. About an equal amount either seemed bothered and or continued on their way unfazed, but most never said anything.

Leadership and culture are a couple of influences that Caravati said are evident in Charlottesville today.

But not all our segments were so clear cut on what people are expected to do ethically. When my car broke down on a rainy day, the fact that no one stopped to offer help in the hour I sat there was no real surprise, for several reasons:

- Women may feel more afraid to stop for a strange man.
- Men are typically more familiar with mechanics and thus will figure a way to get the car operational.
- It was raining.
- It wasn't a life-or-death situation.

But when we put a 24-year-old attractive female in the same scenario, why did seven cars stop for her in about 20 minutes?

The experts say gender plays a major role in people's decision to stop.

In every scenario, from losing money to littering to assisting a broken down motorist, most people did the right thing, from being a good citizen to being aware of the environment to assisting someone in distress.

It bodes well for the people of Charlottesville and to its leadership.

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