Good Deeds and Motives

All of us would like to think we have high ideals and pure motives.  We would tell ourselves that we always do the right things regardless of who we are dealing with, but this is, quite simply, not the case.  We human beings are not nearly as logical and unaffected by emotion as we would like to believe. 

In a recent psychological study, wallets were dropped throughout a major city in subways, on sidewalks, and throughout various business locations in order to see whether the random citizens who happened to come across those wallets would return them.  The wallets were identical except for one detail.  The variable was the photo that was displayed in the window when the wallet was opened. 

Fifteen percent of wallets that had no picture at all were returned, but if the wallets had photos, a higher percentage were returned.  This might make sense if you consider that the person who found the wallet could relate better to a photo than a wallet that did not have a personal photograph. 

Twenty-five percent of wallets showing an elderly couple were returned.  While this might restore your faith in human nature, it doesn’t only matter whether or not there’s a photo, but it matters greatly whose photo it is. 

Forty-eight percent of wallets with a photo of a family were returned.  We might assume from this that those who found the wallets showing a family were twice as likely to return those wallets because that family might have more expenses with kids to raise, college educations to save for, and all of the money pressures that families experience. 

This human-shared emotion is compelling and would indicate that we all look out for the welfare of one another until you understand that 53 percent of wallets that displayed a picture of a puppy were returned to their owners.  An initial observation of this fact might lead one to believe that a photo of a puppy indicates that the owner of the wallet is a loving, caring person; however, the emotional pull created by the photo of the puppy pales in comparison to the emotion demonstrated by the fact that 88 percent of wallets with a photo of a baby were returned. 

While it’s always dangerous to over-simplify or hyper-analyze psychological studies, it is important to realize that giving people an image to relate to can generate from nearly twice as many results up to almost six times the response.  Our message is important and how we communicate it is also important, but who delivers our message may be the most critical component of all. 

As you go through your day today, remember that when you want to motivate people, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift.  He is also a columnist and motivational speaker.  He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK  74145-9082; by email at; on Twitter at; or on Facebook at

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