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Science

Your Moral Compass Is Reversible 295

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-must-have-had-a-good-reason dept.
scibri writes "Your moral positions may be more flexible than you think. Researchers in Sweden have tricked people into reversing their opinions on moral issues, even to the point of constructing good arguments to support the opposite of their original positions (paper in PLOS ONE). They used a 'magic trick' to reverse a person's responses to such moral issues as 'Large-scale governmental surveillance of e-mail and Internet traffic ought to be forbidden as a means to combat international crime and terrorism,' by switching 'forbidden' to 'permitted' when the subject turned the page of the questionaire. When asked to read back the questions and answers, about half of the subjects did not detect the changes, and a full 53% of participants argued unequivocally for the opposite of their original attitude in at least one of the manipulated statements."
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Your Moral Compass Is Reversible

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  • by The Barking Dog (599515) on Friday September 21, 2012 @08:47AM (#41409649) Homepage

    Isn't that a better test of people's poor reading comprehension and listening skills?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 21, 2012 @08:53AM (#41409685)

    Isn't that a better test of people's poor reading comprehension and listening skills?

    No. It shows that most people are not thinking critically, which we already knew, but is a lot more dangerous.

  • Cartoons? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bdcrazy (817679) <bdc_tggr-forums@yahoo.com> on Friday September 21, 2012 @08:56AM (#41409715) Homepage

    Duck Season
    Wabbit Season
    Duck Season ...
    Daffy tells bugs to fire and gets shot.

    How the title is misleading.

    Maybe it wasn't just harmless humor with all the gun issues these days and the lack of understanding.

  • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Friday September 21, 2012 @08:59AM (#41409751) Journal
    On the contrary, the results show that many people actually read the altered questions to their answers correctly, and then still stand by their given answer, even though the meaning of the answer was effectively changed 180 degrees by changing the question.

    "Is censorship bad?". You answer "Yes"
    They then change the question to read "Is censorship good?" and ask you to read back the altered question and your answer.

    The interesting part is not that half the test subjects fail to notice the changes. The interesting part is that, when asked to provide argument, about half the test subjects will argue *against* the position they held when they answered the unaltered question. In my example, thest subject would provide argument in favour of censorship, even though he was against it earlier.
  • by Crasoose (1621969) on Friday September 21, 2012 @09:02AM (#41409771)
    I'd not be surprised if you planted a bunch of questions that are obscure to the every man and he changed his opinion when influenced. It also depends on how many questions they asked that were relatively new to the participant, they might get a bit overwhelmed with picking their answers. Especially if it is a topic like Net Neutrality to Joe Sixpack.
  • by anomaly256 (1243020) on Friday September 21, 2012 @09:05AM (#41409801)
    All that shows is that the majority of people would rather lie than appear to be lying
  • by superwiz (655733) on Friday September 21, 2012 @09:15AM (#41409897) Journal
    You are confusing poor attention span with stupidity. Poor attention span can also lead to more creative thinking and thus more innovative ideas.
  • by trout007 (975317) on Friday September 21, 2012 @09:37AM (#41410145)

    I am an engineer and when I first started having design reviews in relatively large groups > 25 people. I was terrible at it. I couldn't think on my feet and explain things clearly. I had stage fright and I just talked so I wouldn't appear foolish because thinking under that pressure was difficult. As I gained experience it became much more natural and now I feel like what I say in those groups is actually what I am thinking.

    I think the same thing is happening here. Someone has filled out a questionnaire and is now being asked to read aloud (uncomfortable for many) and then defend their opinions (also difficult for many). Many people just want to get out of those situations and not appear foolish and don't take time to think.

  • An excellent case (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GeekWithAKnife (2717871) on Friday September 21, 2012 @09:41AM (#41410189)

    This is a prime example of cognitive dissonance and personal bias. People are biased in their own favor to the point where decisions and even memories will be reconstructed to agree with themselves.
    Assuming a person is fooled into thinking a past decision was purely their own; what happens when a person has to explain something he does not remember? he makes it up!

    It's sort of a basic "Oh it was my idea so I must be right" and the smarter the person the more elaborate the explanation around it will be.

    Personally I believe that it is this sort of situation that should make one question an idea he himself has thought up even "intuition". It's surprising that people assume/are biased that just because a thought occurred to them it must be somehow more correct.
  • Re:Fox News (Score:4, Insightful)

    by KalvinB (205500) on Friday September 21, 2012 @09:49AM (#41410327) Homepage

    Medicare and Social Security are not the government's money. It's our money we specifically paid in for those programs. They're mandated savings accounts.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 21, 2012 @10:15AM (#41410695)

    On the contrary, the results show that many people actually read the altered questions to their answers correctly, and then still stand by their given answer, even though the meaning of the answer was effectively changed 180 degrees by changing the question. The interesting part is that, when asked to provide argument, about half the test subjects will argue *against* the position they held when they answered the unaltered question.

    They summary states that this happened in 'at least one case'.

    But this doesn't support the narrative very strongly at all. There could be some issues people don't care about either way very strongly, and seeking to justify the answer they thought they gave to those, would be different from justifying the answer to something they really cared about.

  • by MrLizard (95131) on Friday September 21, 2012 @10:23AM (#41410783)

    President Bush authorizes torture, indefinite detention without trial, and invokes Executive Privilege to keep secrets.
    Conservatives: A great President, fighting to keep America safe from terrorists!
    Liberals: Bush is a fascist pig who stole the election!

    President Obama authorizes torture, indefinite detention without trial, and invokes Executive Privilege to keep secrets.
    Conservatives: Obama is a Stalinist Muslim who stole the election!
    Liberals: A great President, fighting to keep America safe from terrorists!

  • by somersault (912633) on Friday September 21, 2012 @10:25AM (#41410801) Homepage Journal

    People will repeatedly invest in a losing proposition rather than 'cut' their losses. This also explains the Nigerian scam and casinos.

    Don't forget relationships! :p

  • Re:Magic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrLizard (95131) on Friday September 21, 2012 @10:29AM (#41410853)

    Magicians, being experts on how humans can be fooled, deceived, and manipulated, are the best people to call in as experts when doing studies on how people respond to manipulation. This is why "psychics" can easily fool many scientists, but not magicians. The utility of science in this is not determining THAT humans can be fooled, or even what tricks work best, but, rather, the underlying mechanisms that cause humans to behave as they do.

    Given how much of human society is built around manipulation and deception, at all levels of interaction from the personal to the political, dismissing those who are experts in it is foolish.

  • by Tastecicles (1153671) on Friday September 21, 2012 @10:49AM (#41411049)

    This. Oh, God, this.

  • by Qzukk (229616) on Friday September 21, 2012 @11:26AM (#41411511) Journal

    Imagine having to re-analyze everything. I want to touch type, so I'm expected to review the keyboard layout before typing?

    Except that according to this study, should the keyboard layout be changed, you'll insist that it really IS spelled qxmvbx.

  • by ChrisMP1 (1130781) on Friday September 21, 2012 @11:29AM (#41411565)

    I did not claim that he was wrong - in fact, every word he said was correct - but you are dead wrong. You don't need to be deluded to be happy, and "pessimist" and "cynic" are not substitutes for "realist".

    There are many very dark aspects to the human condition. Many people suffer every day, and many of them will spend the entire rest of their lives suffering. People who deserve power will never hold it, and many of the power-hungry have much more power than they deserve.

    My sadness about these things will do nothing to improve them, so why should I be sad? I'm not deluded, but I'm usually a rather happy person. The human condition is complicated and twisted, and has many good sides as well as bad sides. You're daft if you think you're doing something for humanity or yourself by focusing on the bad sides. You really can just accept them without dwelling on them.

    And stop this "realist" elitism. You talk like you're better than the hordes of "deluded" people. Like you've achieved enlightenment and are now miles ahead of the rest of humanity in terms of intelligence. I used to think like that and it was not good for anyone. Trust me, we all see the problems in the world just like you do.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 21, 2012 @12:20PM (#41412243)

    The problem is that your moral direction doesn't always work. In order for someone to give away anything, they have to have something. In a nutshell, the only way they acquire anything is by pursuing it with little regard for other goals.

    Besides, as I've noticed in every community that I've visited or lived in: these people to whom you refer use the same selfishness that you're condemning. They only provide assistance to people that they think might be beneficial to them in some way. The only people who actually give without expecting any return at any point are the people who get immediate gratification for the action itself.

    Everyone acts for their own selfish reasons, even if they are not obviously doing so. With the exception of those who lack the mental faculties, we are all our own agents.

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