A new study with business students at Loyola University challenges this narrative. In contrast to the 2008 paper, Michael Babula‘s study measured actual behaviour. The fifty students completed questionnaires about their religiosity and desire for wealth, then they headed, one at a time, across the building to give a short presentation, either about careers for economics students or about the relevance of the Good Samaritan parable to their future career.
Before they headed over to give their speech, half were told to hurry, time was short; the others were told there was no rush. Then, just before they reached the lecture room, a distressed, anxious stranger approached them. This person had just heard news that a relative had had an accident, but now their mobile phone had run out of battery and they had no change for a public pay-phone. The key test was whether and how much each student would offer to help the stranger in distress.
Seventy-eight per cent of the business students offered some kind of help to the stranger. Sixty-six per cent went so far as refusing to leave the stranger or giving him/her their mobile phone. The degree to which the students reported being wealth-driven was not associated with their levels of helping. Neither was their self-reported willingness to accept an illegal stock trading tip off. Being in a hurry also made no difference, neither did the content of the speech they were about to give. A factor that was linked with helping behaviour was “intrinsic religiosity” – that is, pursuing religion as an end in itself, not for the sake of status or other gain.
You will note this is a small sample and just a single experiment.