Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Moral Of The Story

Is that people can't be trusted to consistently make the right decision.
When Death Is on the Docket, the Moral Compass Wavers - New York Times: "Moral distancing can also be seen in the language of war, politics and corporate scandal. Pilots euphemistically 'service a target' rather than bomb it; enemies are dehumanized as 'gooks,' 'hajis' or infidels. Politicians and chief executives facing indictments deflect questions about ethical lapses by acknowledging that 'mistakes were made,' or that they were 'out of the loop.'

These remarks reflect internal methods of self-protection, as well as public evasions, research suggests.

Yet it is in the mundane corner-cutting of everyday life that moral disengagement may be most common and insidious, and least conscious."
The little white lies that we use to justify our behavior. It's like driving 70 mph instead of the legal 65. It is only 5 mph more and since you can legally drive 5 mph less, then you should be able to add to the base speed. Of course if you drive 70, then you are already breaking the speed limit so another 5 mph when you are really in a hurry should be ok, shouldn't it?
On the contrary, it was the most dishonest male students who scored highest on the morals test.

"Clearly, this is not what you want to find in a test of moral judgment," said Dr. Ravenscroft, a co-author of the study, with Charles Shrader of Iowa State and Tim West of the University of Arkansas.

Only by conducting in-depth interviews with students about their behavior did the researchers begin to see clear, familiar patterns. One was displacing the blame: "I think it's hard for people not to look at the answer manual if it's available," said one student. "Maybe you should have taken the problem off so people wouldn't be tempted."

Another was justifying the behavior by comparison: "I really don't consider working with another person that unethical," one student commented. "Taking and copying answers from the key was highly unethical." Many students "rationalized cheating behavior as a necessary defense to the cheating of others," the researchers concluded in their analysis, to appear this year in the Business and Professional Ethics Journal. "Yet in an extreme example of moral exclusion, none of the students discussed this impact on others."
Oh yeah, people voluntarily cough up the fact that they are cheating.
As a rule people don't like to cheat or lie, studies find, and they are extremely reluctant to inflict pain on others, no matter the circumstances.

And moral engagement is dynamic. Once people stop doing what is consciously or unconsciously upsetting them, the research suggests, they engage their conscience more fully.
Does the guilt set in then? Or do they just forget about it?

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