I know what you’re thinking.
Could I have rephrased it to “How to be a bad person”? Sure. But that would’ve misconstrued your interpretation of the article. Not by much. But just enough. So, no.
Also, I’m basing this article on a statement I made in the last post.
“People generally view themselves as good. Better than they actually are.”
If you like sequels, grab the popcorn. If you don’t, grab the alcohol. We’re going to take a closer look into your soul.
And if you’re not excited yet, you should be. You’re going to learn how Obama got to be president.
On Caring More but Doing Less
Let’s take a practical approach by first looking at two different studies. Number one: Self-Enhancement and Social Responsibility: On Caring More, but Doing Less Than Others by White and Plous.
The study had random people answer questions about both their levels of concern and levels of activism on particular social issues; the environment, AIDS, animal protection, drug abuse, world hunger, and homelessness.
It should be noted that the study was done twice with the above paragraph describing the pilot study. The second and main study considered the limitations of the pilot and retained three of the six issues: environment, animal protection, and world hunger. We’ll look at both.
As stated in the paper, “Respondents tended to display self-enhancement in ratings of their concern, but self-deprecation in ratings of their activism.” In other words, people exaggerated their levels of concern while the levels of actual activism were not even close to the proposed state of concern.
Aside from the environment, all the other 5 issues on the activism scale were below the midpoint.
“67.0% of respondents reported that the public is not worried enough about the environment, 24.2% reported that the public shows the right amount of concern, and 8.8% reported that the public is too worried (with similar results on the other five issues). When asked about their own level of concern, however, respondents typically reported having the “right amount of concern.”
People were asked to rate whether their levels of concern and activism was less than others, same as others, or more than others. As much as most people described their concern as “more than others,” for majority of them, their reported levels of activism were actually less than others.
The main study also displayed quite similar results despite curbing some limitations from the pilot study e.g., using highly trained interviewers as opposed to student interviewers, and carrying out the interview via telephone as opposed to face-to-face conversations (people are likely to feel pressured to be socially desirable in public situations)
It’s like nothing changed at all.
“Oh yeah, I’m more than concerned about the malnourished kids down the street,”
“What are you doing to change that?”
Beyond Plant-Based Meat
Study number 2 is not quite as in-depth but is still insightful. Do Green Products Make Us Better People? by Mazar and Zhong.
On priming, exposure to pictures of fancy restaurants is likely to increase your table manners as much as the word ‘jelly’ is quickly recognized following the word ‘peanut butter’ as opposed to ‘bulldozer.’ So, when it comes to exposure to green products, they are more likely to “activate norms of social responsibility and ethical conduct.” You feel good about yourself because some cow’s life in New Zealand is spared when you buy that can of soya chunks. Or whatever.
But here’s a word from our study.
“In line with the halo associated with green consumerism, results showed that people act more altruistically after mere exposure to green products than after mere exposure to conventional products. However, people act less altruistically and are more likely to cheat and steal after purchasing green products than after purchasing conventional products.”
Now, I’m obviously not here to bash the vegans or whatever. This here is about moral licensing: Where being good frees you to be bad.
“Although mere exposure to green products can have a positive societal effect by inducing prosocial and ethical acts, purchasing green products may license indulgence in self-interested and unethical behaviours.”
You just had an intense workout so surely you deserve that KitKat bar. Or on a larger scale, you voted for a black guy (or a woman, or a guy from a different ethnicity) so God forbid anyone calls you racist. “I’m off to rape my secretary.”
And here’s the interesting part as pointed out by Daniel A. Effron.
“to feel licensed to express prejudice, it may not be necessary to assure oneself that ‘one of my best friends is Black;’ it may be sufficient to reflect on how ‘none of my worst enemies is Black,’ ‘I intend to make some Black friends,’ ‘I would have a Black friend if my neighbourhood were more diverse,’ or even ‘one of my best friends’ friends is Black.’”
Don’t you just love humanity?
Two different studies showing (more or less) that people are really bad…people.
It’s a given that some of this stuff happens unconsciously and by the time you realize what you’ve just done, it’s already too late. But here’s an excerpt from the first study about social issues.
“In answer to the question of whether feelings or actions were a better measure of citizen concern, 86.2% said that actions were a better measure. When asked which of the two was a better measure of their own concern, however, only 56.2% of respondents said that actions were more important.”
I’m sorry, what?? You just admitted 2 seconds ago that actions do speak louder than words but somehow, you’re excluded from the universal law you just obliged to?
“Hey babe, I told you I was gonna rock your world,”
“But I didn’t feel anything?”
“Well yeah, but I TOLD you I was gonna rock your world,”
It doesn’t count for shit!
Here’s the thing; your words are complete horse manure. Unless you do what you say you’re going to do – or in the case of integrity, find a way to honour your word if it’s evidential you can’t keep it – you better shut up and eat your mashed potatoes. This is why you read 20 books on confidence but still can’t see tangible results. “At least I’m growing.” Sure you are.
And here’s another thing. Even your actions can be horse manure if you do stuff for the sake of an identity. This is evident in the case of the guys who felt morally superior simply because they bought some organic pasta. “Feeling entitled to a self-indulgent behavior that one would not permit oneself without first having done a positive action.” I just confirmed that I’m a good person so I guess I can throw this wrapper on the street.
Here’s something you should know. What you do is who you are. Stealing bread to feed your starving family still makes you a thief as much as having “entrepreneur” on your Instagram bio makes you a bum. (Cue the meme)
“Kids these days! Back in my day…,” go flush your head down a toilet. Trust me when I say you’ll be doing both of us a favor.