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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Men (and women) Behaving Badly

In two recent studies at University of Toronto Scarborough, researchers tested people's willingness to behave badly.

"People are more likely to cheat and make immoral decisions when their transgressions don't involve an explicit action," says Rimma Teper, lead author on the study, "If they can lie by omission, cheat without doing much legwork, or bypass a person's request for help without expressly denying them, they are much more likely to do so."

In the first study, two groups of participants took a test on a computer. Group 1 were told if they pressed the space bar that the answer would appear on the screen. Group 2 were told the answer would appear if they didn't press the enter key within five seconds of the question.

They found that those who didn't have to actively do anything to see the answer, they were more likely to cheat.

In the second study, participants were asked if they would volunteer to help a student with a learning disability to complete part of the test. Group 1 had only the option of checking a 'yes' or 'no' box on the computer. Group 2 could follow a link at the bottom of the page to volunteer their help or press 'continue' to move on to the next page.

They found participants were more likely to volunteer when they had to pick either 'yes' or 'no.' They concluded that it is difficult for people to explicitly deny help to others and this was linked to emotion, proably either guilt or shame. Those that didn't have to explicitly make a 'yes/no' choice wouldn't feel these emotions as strongly so it didn't affect their decision making, meaning they were more likely to make the immoral choice.

It also has critical implications for those in the business of soliciting peoples' good will, money or time.

Link to Article

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