Lots of New Year’s resolutions are being made — and no doubt ignored — at this time of year. But there’s one that’s probably not even on many lists and should be: Act more ethically.
Most people, if pressed, would acknowledge that they could use an ethical tuneup. Maybe last year they fudged some numbers at work. Dented a car and failed to leave a note. Remained silent when a friend made a racist joke.
The problem, research shows, is that how we think we’re going to act when faced with a moral decision and how we really do act are often vastly different.
Here’s just one of many examples from an experiment at Northeastern University: Subjects were told they should flip a coin to see who should do certain tasks. One task is long and laborious; the other is short and fun.
The participant flips the coin in private (though secretly watched by video cameras), said David DeSteno, a professor of psychology at Northeastern who conducted the experiment. Only 10 percent of them did it honestly. The others didn’t flip at all, or kept flipping until the coin came up the way they wanted.
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