Shocking people for profit

walking awayby Matt Seppings

People: not as nice as they think they are
[Via Field of Science Combined Feed]

A lot of experiments comparing religious and non-religious people go something like this: give the study subjects an imaginary scenario, ask them some questions about how they would react, and then ask them about their religious beliefs.
All well and good, except that it’s well known that we are not terribly good judges of our own behaviour. Most of us look at our own deeds through rose-tinted glasses – we tend to think that we’re kinder, more trustworthy, more intelligent and braver than we actually are.
Just how far divorced from reality we are was shown recently in an elegant study by Oriel Feldmanhall, a PhD candidate at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at Cambridge University, England. She’s just presented the research at the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society in San Francisco, California.

Ask people hypothetically if they would shock someone for money and most say no (64%). Actually provide the money and almost all (96%) will not only say yes they will do it. Even though, as this study shows, the parts of their brains that deal with morality are very active. They will still do this. The only thing that makes a difference is if they actually see a person grimace or only see a hand jerk.

A nice demonstration of how the pursuit of money pushes against our inborn sense of morality and how we can ignore that sense, actually willing to hurt other people in order to help ourselves. It just shows how, given the right circumstances, we could all be bandits. This makes the likelihood of walking away from Omelas even harder.

Perhaps we  must construct better and more moral models for our culture if we are to walk away

3 thoughts on “Shocking people for profit

  1. Churchill summed it up best: “* Churchill: Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?
    Woman: My goodness, Mr. Churchill… Well, I suppose… we would have to discuss terms, of course…
    Churchill: Would you sleep with me for five pounds?
    Woman: Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!
    Churchill: Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.”

  2. Ought to read Kohlberg’s stages of moral development, which theorizes that people aren’t stuck in one moral plane, but move between levels based on various factors.
    Of course, he also thought there should be a 7th level, which would be a Christ or Buddha, but some people believe there should be a Zero stage person, i.e. a sociopath.

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