Wednesday, May 18, 2011

We are all Newt Gingrich

Well, not quite, but the idea that some people aren't hypocrites is difficult to sustain:
Take hypocrisy. Increasing amounts of research show convincingly that the label hypocrite is not only reserved for politicians like Mr. Gingrich or ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer. As research from our lab has repeatedly shown, hypocrisy appears to be a fundamental part of the human condition. To demonstrate this, we often present individuals with two tasks that need to be completed: one long and onerous, the other short and fun. We give them a coin to flip to decide whether they or the person waiting in the room outside to go next will complete the onerous task. We then leave them alone while viewing their subsequent actions on hidden video surveillance. Once left to their own devices, 90% of people do not flip the coin; they simply give themselves the good task dooming the next person to drudgery. When they're later asked anonymously how fairly they behaved, they judge their actions as acceptable. However, when people are asked to judge the exact same action committed by another person, they universally condemn his or her not flipping the coin and taking the pleasant option for themselves. After all, the mind has no need to rationalize away another person's bad behavior. " --- From "Newt Gingrich and the Vicissitudes of Character" by David DeSteno, Northeastern Univ.
It's worth reading the rest of DeSteno's post, and his blog on character. I expect hypocrisy (and evil) to be big topics in social psychology and liberalism over the next few decades, especially in terms of treating them as things to be managed rather than as things to be destroyed.

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