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How easy is it to confuse our moral compass ?

Posted on Friday, 21 September, 2012 | Comment icon 18 comments | News tip by: Render

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Cognitive scientist Lars Hall set out to determine just how easy it is to fool our moral principles.

Hall and his team at Lund University in Sweden conducted an experiment in which 160 volunteers were asked to fill out a two-page survey about the morality of various world issues covered in the news. In each survey one of the questions was a trick in that when the page was turned over the premise would be altered to mean the opposite of what the volunteer had originally argued but while leaving their response unchanged.

The volunteers were then asked to read out and discuss some of their answers including that to the trick question. 53% of those taking part not only failed to pick up the change but actively argued in favor of the altered statement even though it was the stark opposite of their original position. Hal and his team attributed this result to a phenomenon known as "choice blindness" which highlights the inherent inaccuracies in self-report questionnaires.

"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 ONE."

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #9 Posted by ouija ouija on 21 September, 2012, 15:51
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 mos... [More]
Comment icon #10 Posted by Idano on 21 September, 2012, 15:58
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.
Comment icon #11 Posted by regeneratia on 21 September, 2012, 16:44
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 clipb... [More]
Comment icon #12 Posted by King Fluffs on 21 September, 2012, 17:24
Probably pretty easily.
Comment icon #13 Posted by Ashiene on 21 September, 2012, 18:15
Religion is the greatest manipulator of the moral compass, though.
Comment icon #14 Posted by Render on 23 September, 2012, 8:48
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 f... [More]
Comment icon #15 Posted by tipsy_munchkin on 23 September, 2012, 9:57
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... [More]
Comment icon #16 Posted by Babe Ruth on 23 September, 2012, 13:38
And in too many cases, the influence of religion is to confuse the moral compass.
Comment icon #17 Posted by lowridergirl on 7 October, 2012, 4:57
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 w... [More]

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