Everyday Morality

Under the leadership of Dr. Wilhelm Hofmann of the University of Cologne, a research team published a new study that is basically a survey done by about 1200 people on everyday morality. The participants were contacted about very two hours to report any morally good acts that they had witnessed or performed since the last up-date. The categories were “care/harm’, fairness/unfairness, and
loyalty/disloyalty. Examples of morally good acts were things like opening a door for a stranger, saying, “thank you” to a clerk, giving a donation to a local coin drop, etc. One result was that people for whom a good act was performed tended to pass on the good act to another. According to the researchers (do not ask me how they measured this) a person who performed a morally good act seemed to use that good act as permission, “moral license”, to perform a “bad” act, e.g., being rude to driver. Psychologists who were not part of the study expressed excitement over the possibilities that the study opened for future studies. This study was able to gather social data quickly because it used electronic technology.

I recently moved into a high -rise apartment building with about 300 inhabitants. The building is well maintained; the cliental varies in age, race, sex and family make up. I am delighted to report to the researchers, even though I have not been asked, that politeness is the norm of the day. Courtesy is an absolute necessity for civilized society. Just ask the English.


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