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How to confuse a moral compass

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Survey 'magic trick' causes attitude reversal.

People can be tricked into reversing their opinions on moral issues, even to the point of constructing good arguments to support the opposite of their original positions, researchers report today in PLoS ONE1.

The researchers, led by Lars Hall, a cognitive scientist at Lund University in Sweden, recruited 160 volunteers to fill out a 2-page survey on the extent to which they agreed with 12 statements — either about moral principles relating to society in general or about the morality of current issues in the news, from prostitution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

But the surveys also contained a ‘magic trick’. Each contained two sets of statements, one lightly glued on top of the other. Each survey was given on a clipboard, on the back of which the researchers had added a patch of glue. When participants turned the first page over to complete the second, the top set of statements would stick to the glue, exposing the hidden set but leaving the responses unchanged.

Two statements in every hidden set had been reworded to mean the opposite of the original statements. For example, if the top statement read, “Large-scale governmental surveillance of e-mail and Internet traffic ought to be forbidden as a means to combat international crime and terrorism,” the word ‘forbidden’ was replaced with ‘permitted’ in the hidden statement.

Participants were then asked to read aloud three of the statements, including the two that had been altered, and discuss their responses.

About half of the participants did not detect the changes, and 69% accepted at least one of the altered statements.

People were even willing to argue in favour of the reversed statements: A full 53% of participants argued unequivocally for the opposite of their original attitude in at least one of the manipulated statements, the authors write. Hall and his colleagues have previously reported this effect, called 'choice blindness', in other areas, including taste and smell2 and aesthetic choice3.

“I don't feel we have exposed people or fooled them,” says Hall. “Rather this shows something otherwise very difficult to show, [which is] how open and flexible people can actually be.”

The study raises questions about the validity of self-report questionnaires, says Hall. The results suggest that standard surveys “are not good at capturing the complexity of the attitudes people actually hold”, he says, adding that the switching technique could be used to improve opinion surveys in the future.

Tania Lombrozo, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, says that the experiment is “creative and careful”, but adds that it would be good to see the findings replicated with a more diverse group of participants and a broader range of claims, including those more likely to play a role in people's everyday judgement and behaviour. “For example, would people fail to notice a change in their judgement concerning the ethics of meat consumption and subsequently provide a justification for a view that isn't their own?” she asks.

The possibility of using the technique as a means of moral persuasion is “intriguing”, says Liane Young, a psychologist at Boston College in Massachusetts. “These findings suggest that if I'm fooled into thinking that I endorse a view, I'll do the work myself to come up with my own reasons [for endorsing it],” she says.

http://www.nature.co...compass-1.11447

So what does this mean?

Ppl don't really believe in their own opinion and can easily be tricked into defending the opposite of what they thought they stood for?

Edited by Render
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I think it means that many of our opinions are based on context, on what os happening in our immediate environment, and those around us that we value.

If any one of us just happened to have been born anywhere else we would feel very different about many things proving what we feel is not necessarily true and not based on any logic even if we like to feel it is. Which means the people we disagree with on so many issues are not as wrong as we think.

In one study they showed phony slides of Looney Toon characters at Disney. When they asked later if people remembered taking a photo with Bugs Bunny at Disney many said yes. Looney Toon characters are not Disney so even the memories we have can also easily be influenced by what is going on around us now.

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It means we need to be more aware on why we believe the way we believe. Lazy thinking can turn people to sheep :cry:

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I think it means that many of our opinions are based on context, on what os happening in our immediate environment, and those around us that we value.

If any one of us just happened to have been born anywhere else we would feel very different about many things proving what we feel is not necessarily true and not based on any logic even if we like to feel it is. Which means the people we disagree with on so many issues are not as wrong as we think.

In one study they showed phony slides of Looney Toon characters at Disney. When they asked later if people remembered taking a photo with Bugs Bunny at Disney many said yes. Looney Toon characters are not Disney so even the memories we have can also easily be influenced by what is going on around us now.

Yes, they did the same kinda thing with planting a false memory in ppl about getting lost in a mall as a child.

Each time they discussed the mall event it got more and more loaded with false memories about which store they got lost in and it later developed in most ppl saying they remembered a man (even describing the mans' appearance) that tried to kidnap them and they were super scared about getting punished at home for running away.

It's crazy how far the mind can go with a lil trickery.

Back in 90's this was severe problem in psychology where Freud's supression theories thrived. Psychologists, therapists were telling ppl they were feeling depressed because they were supressing the memory of abuse from a family member. Usually the father. And the more they resisted this thought the more the psychologist insisted it must be true because it hurt so much.

A lot of fathers were falsely accused and put into prison back then. It was horrible.

Luckily, after a long time, this theory was countered. Even though the ppl saying the whole approach was wrong were accused of protecting abusers at first.

Edited by Render

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They didn't notice the questions had changed, or there answers were totally out of character for themselves?...seems hard to believe. I notice obscure things that most people don't notice (no superpowers, just me) and I think I would have said "Hey wait a minute"!!!

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This is definatly caused by people who are lazy thinkers. I can imagine bimbo blondes doing something like this. Anyone who has actually invested time in knowing about those topics and have mapped their mind to logically traverse these ethical issues would not be fooled by such trickery.

A documentary came on in the middle of the night about a survivor of auschwitz concentration camp. The nazi's were so lazy they made jews escort the jews from the trains and into the gas chambers, then they would make the jews take any valuables left from the corpses like gold filling and make them bury the bodies in massive pits. They ended up using the same jews to do this over and over. Because the nazi's made them do this, it's is the only reason some of those jews lived to tell the tale. He said that after the first few times it was unbearable but the more the did it, the repitition of leading jews from the trains and into the gas chambers and burying the bodies they became desensitised to the tragidy of it. At some points they logically knew it was wrong but the feelings and emotions for the jews just weren't there because they were doing the same thing over and over day after day. He said that when they would over pack the chamber it was only as the door was closing the jews inside realised that they were not in showers and they would die. The gasing would take 30 minutes. It was a whole psycological ploy to control the crowd. The first faces they met were jews and the jews would escort them to room to take off their clothes then to the "showers". He also said that one group that were put into the chamber actually all started sing a jewish song until silence. The nazi's were taken back a bit not expecting such a reaction because it was mostly scream until silence.

Edited by Mbyte

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A good thread!

Yes, people can be fooled in many ways, and there are some who have refined the art of fooling people to a very high level.

What is considered right and what is considered wrong can be manipulated with sufficient media effort, just as Goebbels suggested.

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They didn't notice the questions had changed, or there answers were totally out of character for themselves?...seems hard to believe. I notice obscure things that most people don't notice (no superpowers, just me) and I think I would have said "Hey wait a minute"!!!

I agree with you. I suppose it all depends on how much interest you have taken in a particular moral dilemma in the past, how much time you've spent thinking it through. Probably age has something to do with it ...... younger ones might be more easily fooled. I really don't think I could be made to argue the opposite case to what I believed ...... especially if I had only just written my view in the survey!

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Do you think you are observant and pay full attention as to what happens? Don't be so sure. :innocent:

Watch

and this clip.

What are your thoughts now? :)

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Do you think you are observant and pay full attention as to what happens? Don't be so sure. :innocent:

Watch

and this clip.

What are your thoughts now? :)

These clips are about something completely different to the theme of this thread. Of course people don't see and remember every little thing around them because 90% of it isn't important to them. But what this 'research' is asking us to believe is that our closely held beliefs can be flipped around, just because a stranger tells us we don't actually believe what we KNOW we do believe! Perhaps Idano and I are peculiar in being so clear as to what our morals are(and that doesn't mean to say that we wouldn't change them if new information came to us), perhaps most people are so vague about morals or never think about them, they could be persuaded.

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Do you think you are observant and pay full attention as to what happens? Don't be so sure. :innocent:

Watch

and this clip.

What are your thoughts now? :)

I noticed that the people who didn't notice the switch were all concerned about the amount of time it would take for the study. Were they to focused on themselves/their time to notice anything else. It just demonstrates the old saying "stop and smell the roses" (head up, look around) I notice (there i go again) people are walking around heads down, well you won't notice most things down there.

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Sean Hannity did this during election years in mass-produced political phone calls. I knew what I thought and answered with my own ideals even tho the question made those ideals seem highly undesirable. It wasn't a paper trick but a questionaire trick designed specifically to trip you up and implying that you make a choice that you didn't make, and make you forget what you answered before.

And recently I have taken to lying on this type of thing. When I get calls, I am all over the place in my answers, just to skew the marketing poll.

From here on out, I will always flip over the clipboard.

Edited by regeneratia
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Probably pretty easily.

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Religion is the greatest manipulator of the moral compass, though.

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A lot of ppl here react in a way that they would be superior to this moral confusing.

It's interesting because there have actually been studies about in what degree ppl believe they could be tricked into thinking and remembering things.

Anyway, the study concluded that the majority is not aware how easily fooled they are and automatically assume they are too intelligent for it to happen to them. The majority automatically assumes that ppl that are fooled are less intelligent or generally don't think about things in the degree they would think it through.

Even when confronted with the facts that they were fooled half of that majority insisted that it did not happen to them because what they now believe they have always believed and remembered.

It's related to the Dunning-Kruger effect.

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I think a lot depends on the issues raised as well. As someone pointed out if something is very close to home and personal you are likely to be very clear on your personal views.

One factor not really discussed is the ability to see both sides to an argument. If, by nature, someone is good at seeing things from various points of view and are presented with issues they have not previously formed a concrete opinion on I think they would be more likely to be tricked by this experiment. Part of exploring a moral dilemma is to attempt to view it in different ways. Unless someone has already done so before taking the test the ability to see it both ways may not imply they are stupid. It would be interesting to see if their original response allowed them to reply in a way that suggested they were undecided. If that was their position and they weren't given that option they could easily not recall which way they decided to go in their original answer.

:w00t: I hate reading about the Dunning-Kruger effect as I initially start to question my intelligence. Then by the very implications of the theory I think well that must mean I am competent. Then as soon as I think that i think well darn now I think I am I must not be. It makes my little brain hurt. :unsure2:

Edited by tipsy_munchkin

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Religion is the greatest manipulator of the moral compass, though.

And in too many cases, the influence of religion is to confuse the moral compass.

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Personally I have never changed my views, I am set in stone to that one. But me personally the answer isn't really simple as I don't know psychology all that much and I can only offer my opinion, I guess I think the mere changing of that one word in a sentence probably does something psychology to the brain of the person that is reading it. There are "trigger words" that some professionals use on people to change their mindset ... even behavior. They use those words and it changes the reaction if people who are not aware of it. If some people actually catch on to it than it wouldn't work. It actually just goes to show how much your paying attention lol and it goes to show a lot about the person, if they are actually set in their views any person would be willing to argue if it didn't match their opinion (like me.)

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