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Can an authority figures influence human behaviour

Does a murder abroad carry the same moral weight as one committed at home? Related Content Support for the Death Penalty May Be Linked to Belief in Pure Evil Philosophers and psychologists studying moral reasoning have long argued that certain pillars of morality are largely fixed and apply universally across time and space.

But work conducted by an international team of researchers now suggests that people's moral judgments are far more flexible than previously thought. The study offers insight into the ways people respond to morally troubling events, from rape to slander, and may yield clues to the level of outrage expressed by a given community. For instance, most Americans would say that slavery in the South was morally wrong, says Fessler.

The researchers were careful to choose locations that were geographically disparate, historically and culturally unrelated and that covered a wide spectrum of technological development, socioeconomic status and population size.

In particular, they focused on smaller societies that more accurately resemble the civilizations that characterize 99 percent of our evolutionary history. More than 200 subjects listened to seven stories that described an action that would be considered highly immoral, such as stealing, battery or rape.

After completing a comprehension test, they were asked to rate how good or bad they perceived the specified action to be.

  1. People seen as highly moral are more likely to be included in future cooperative ventures in the community, such as a hunt or a barn raising, that enhance their ability to survive. In particular, they focused on smaller societies that more accurately resemble the civilizations that characterize 99 percent of our evolutionary history.
  2. In particular, they focused on smaller societies that more accurately resemble the civilizations that characterize 99 percent of our evolutionary history. For instance, most Americans would say that slavery in the South was morally wrong, says Fessler.
  3. We just have to convince one another that the whole world is that community.
  4. I guess that asked in that manner, practically everybody would answer this question with an resounding NO. The team presents their findings this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
  5. Participants were debriefed after the experiment and Milgram divided them into three categories. The team presents their findings this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The participants were then asked to reassess their morality rating after learning that an influential leader in their community approved of it, and to consider if the action took place a long time ago or if the action took place very far away.

For each condition, members of nearly all the societies judged the previously egregious actions as less morally problematic, even when accounting for various factors such as age, sex, education level or the specific moral situation they assessed.

The team presents their findings this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. So what causes this shift in attitudes?

  • Fessler gives an example in which football players illegally park in handicapped spots because they are closest to campus;
  • Indeed those who challenged authority were in the minority;
  • He deserved to be punished.

According to Fessler, moral judgments are the products of an evolved psychology that motivates people to follow and enforce a set of rules. Although it can be costly in terms of time and energy, this community-oriented psychology confers benefits upon individuals who establish a moral reputation. People seen as highly moral are more likely to be included in future cooperative ventures in the community, such as a hunt or a barn raising, that enhance their ability to survive.

Obedience: The impact of Power on Human Behavior

But there is a time and place when it comes to enforcing moral codes. Fessler gives an example in which football players illegally park in handicapped spots because they are closest to campus. Since the players pose a physical threat, anyone willing to stand up and call them out on shady behavior would receive a huge boost in moral reputation.

But when individuals continually express outrage at events far removed from the present, they dilute their moral potency and lose reputation. Congress, largely shape the interpretation of moral norms in their respective environments.

How Time, Space and Authority Figures Influence Your Moral Judgment

That means the same psychology that seeks to boost moral reputation should also be finely attuned to the opinions of important leaders. Fessler stresses that understanding this behavior is by no means a justification for it. But empirically, it is the case that people are in fact morally parochialists, even if that position is philosophically indefensible.

  1. But when individuals continually express outrage at events far removed from the present, they dilute their moral potency and lose reputation.
  2. While most participants were clearly conflicted with the experiment, they still obeyed to the orders given by the scientist.
  3. The study offers insight into the ways people respond to morally troubling events, from rape to slander, and may yield clues to the level of outrage expressed by a given community.
  4. I guess that asked in that manner, practically everybody would answer this question with an resounding NO.
  5. This characteristic of human behavior under pressure submitting quite naturally to authority is present in any kind of organizations.

Photography, video and other social media can turn our planet into one common neighborhood. There is strong evidence these tools tap into our inherent psychology and give people the impression that morally unjust events happening far away are in fact happening locally—just ask the U.

  • The participants were then asked to reassess their morality rating after learning that an influential leader in their community approved of it, and to consider if the action took place a long time ago or if the action took place very far away;
  • Indeed those who challenged authority were in the minority;
  • But work conducted by an international team of researchers now suggests that people's moral judgments are far more flexible than previously thought;
  • While most participants were clearly conflicted with the experiment, they still obeyed to the orders given by the scientist.

We just have to convince one another that the whole world is that community.