Secular Right | Reality & Reason



Saints & Sinners

Normally I would post this at one of my science blogs…but it might be relevant right now in politics. Sinning Saints and Saintly Sinners: The Paradox of Moral Self-Regulation:

The question of why people are motivated to act altruistically has been an important one for centuries, and across various disciplines. Drawing on previous research on moral regulation, we propose a framework suggesting that moral (or immoral) behavior can result from an internal balancing of moral self-worth and the cost inherent in altruistic behavior. In Experiment 1, participants were asked to write a self-relevant story containing words referring to either positive or negative traits. Participants who wrote a story referring to the positive traits donated one fifth as much as those who wrote a story referring to the negative traits. In Experiment 2, we showed that this effect was due specifically to a change in the self-concept. In Experiment 3, we replicated these findings and extended them to cooperative behavior in environmental decision making. We suggest that affirming a moral identity leads people to feel licensed to act immorally. However, when moral identity is threatened, moral behavior is a means to regain some lost self-worth.

ScienceDaily has a summary. Shorter: after strenuous exercise many people are apt to “treat themselves” to less than healthy concoctions….



  • Donna B. · June 29, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    I’ve been good, so I can be bad? Yep, I’m guilty of this. And I’m guilty of rolling my eyes at “do-gooders” who keep score.

    My mother’s only sister was one of those people who simply never thought about being “bad” and probably couldn’t have been so if she’d tried really hard. This was in stark contrast to my mother who more often than not rationalized that the element of fun in any activity would over-ride it’s possible “badness”.

    Where my aunt’s behavior was different than most “do-gooders” I’ve known is that I never felt a need for an insulin injection to overcome the sweetness of her intents and actions. She never did “good” to be good, but her basics instincts just seemed to turn out that way.

    And she never, ever preached. Perhaps the line on her plane was placed higher than average.

  • cooper · July 2, 2009 at 7:55 am

    So…the sermon by Pastor Jonathan Edwards was good medicine after all?



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