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Your Moral Compass Is Reversible 295

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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  • Fox News (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RazzleFrog ( 537054 ) on Friday September 21, 2012 @08:49AM (#41409659)

    Hasn't Fox News been pulling this trick for years? It's awful how people get money from the government - except, of course, our viewers who are primarily on medicare and social security. Ignore the man behind the curtain.

  • by cod3r_ ( 2031620 ) on Friday September 21, 2012 @08:53AM (#41409681)
    That's what I got from this too. People are just more or less dummies and pay very little attention to what they are talking about.
  • by dltaylor ( 7510 ) on Friday September 21, 2012 @09:25AM (#41409989) []

    and quoted, below (Sir Humphrey is a senior civil servant and Mr. Woolley, his junior):

    Sir Humphrey Appleby: [demonstrating how public surveys can reach opposite conclusions] Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the rise in crime among teenagers?
    Bernard Woolley: Yes.
    Sir Humphrey Appleby: Do you think there is lack of discipline and vigorous training in our Comprehensive Schools?
    Bernard Woolley: Yes.
    Sir Humphrey Appleby: Do you think young people welcome some structure and leadership in their lives?
    Bernard Woolley: Yes.
    Sir Humphrey Appleby: Do they respond to a challenge?
    Bernard Woolley: Yes.
    Sir Humphrey Appleby: Might you be in favour of reintroducing National Service?
    Bernard Woolley: Er, I might be.
    Sir Humphrey Appleby: Yes or no?
    Bernard Woolley: Yes.
    Sir Humphrey Appleby: Of course, after all you've said you can't say no to that. On the other hand, the surveys can reach opposite conclusions.
    [survey two]
    Sir Humphrey Appleby: Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the danger of war?
    Bernard Woolley: Yes.
    Sir Humphrey Appleby: Are you unhappy about the growth of armaments?
    Bernard Woolley: Yes.
    Sir Humphrey Appleby: Do you think there's a danger in giving young people guns and teaching them how to kill?
    Bernard Woolley: Yes.
    Sir Humphrey Appleby: Do you think it's wrong to force people to take arms against their will?
    Bernard Woolley: Yes.
    Sir Humphrey Appleby: Would you oppose the reintroduction of conscription?
    Bernard Woolley: Yes.
    [does a double-take]
    Sir Humphrey Appleby: There you are, Bernard. The perfectly balanced sample.

  • by craigminah ( 1885846 ) on Friday September 21, 2012 @09:36AM (#41410135)

    Didn't Looney Tunes teach this exact thing 60 years ago:

    Daffy Duck to Elmer Fudd: "It's rabbit season!"
    Buggs Bunny to Elmer Fudd: "It's duck season!"
    Daffy Duck to Elmer Fudd: "It's rabbit season!"
    Buggs Bunny to Elmer Fudd: "It's rabbit season!"
    Daffy Duck to Elmer Fudd: "It's duck season, now blast the duck!"
    Elmer Fudd: [boom, duck bill on top of Daffy Duck's head]

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Friday September 21, 2012 @10:22AM (#41410779) Journal

    I think most peoples' moral compass....points in the direction that will be most beneficial to them at the given moment they are called upon to utilize it.

    You know, the longer I live, the more I find the opposite.

    I'm a pretty small sample, of course, and maybe I'm just lucky in how I've run into so many people who are not only decent, but willing to sacrifice for someone else.

    There is still something in us, independent of any religious belief or lack thereof, that makes us hurt when we see someone else hurt, and makes us want to give someone our coat, or a portion of our food. And this despite by the best efforts of our corporatized culture to desensitize us to the suffering of others and our place in our communities. See, selfishness is good for business in a consumer economy. Sharing is bad for business. If my neighbor asks me to borrow $50 until payday, it's bad for the credit card business, because I'm not going to ask my neighbor for $50 plus 23%.

    I guess this all means I'm hopeful.

  • by Evtim ( 1022085 ) on Friday September 21, 2012 @10:56AM (#41411141)

    This is no cynicism. There are two types of people in the world - realists and deluded. The deluded are the happy ones. Because they really hate the other type's attitude as they don't want to see their delusions gone, the have invented many terms to substitute "realism" and smear the issue. Some of those terms are "pessimist" and "cynic". There you go....

    Don't believe me? There was a /. discussion over scientific investigation showing that "depressed" people have more accurate perception of reality. Moral: of you want to be happy, hold delusions.... that explains a lot about the human condition don't you think?

  • by Golddess ( 1361003 ) on Friday September 21, 2012 @11:18AM (#41411411)
    Is it really poor attention span that would cause you you to overlook the double word in this sentence?

    Because that's what this seems like to me. Only instead of two of the same word in a row, they simply replaced one word with another in a giant sea of words. Though one might be able to make the case that the people taking the questionaire should have picked up on "hey, why am I being asked each question twice?"
  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Friday September 21, 2012 @03:10PM (#41414237) Journal

    The problem is that people recognize and laud individual kindness, but fail to recognize the systemic evil they participate in.

    I take that into account.

    When I lived for a while in Rolla, Missouri, working at the UofM, I noticed that you had a lot of people who were wearing all the trappings of altruism, Christianity, etc. There was much made of "charity", but they were still screaming at young women walking into Planned Parenthood, calling them "whore" and telling them that they were "damned to burn in Hell". This was before I was married, and they'd pointedly asking if I had a girlfriend, checking to see if I was gay because they didn't go for that sort of thing happening in their community. Really judgmental fuckers.

    But still, in the most unlikely places, I'd find someone who was a regular working joe, putting up heating and air conditioning units, and spending almost all of his non-working hours doing stuff for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Never talking about Jesus or Hell, I never knew if he was a believer or not. He played a mean mandolin and dobro and kept pretty quiet. But I found out that he was tireless, not so much in doing the big things that you hear about from Make-a-Wish, but little things for families with sick kids. He never had a bad word about anyone.

    I know a lady across the alley from me. She's a surgeon at a big teaching hospital. A spinster, maybe a lesbian, who knows - don't care. We're a pretty prosperous neighborhood, and there are people who come around with old pickup trucks, sometimes wagons, because so much good stuff is just thrown away around here. I'd see this lady putting out some old furniture or something for the scavengers to pick up, but seem she'd fix it up before she threw it out. I'd known her for years -she's a close friend - and I never would have known that she does this regularly, except I can see into her back yard from my rooftop, and I've noticed her doing this for years. Charity without any desire for recognition. I know her well enough to know that she's not a believer in God. She's not doing it for goodies in the afterlife. I drove by the Cathedral Shelter over on Ogden Ave once, and I spotted her working in the food pantry there. And she's the one who once told me, when we were talking about taxes and charitable deductions, that "she doesn't have time" to keep track of those things, which I took to mean she doesn't look for a tax benefit from her charity.

    See, I don't believe that these kind of people are by any means the majority, but the longer I live, the more of them I meet in unlikely places, unlikely situations.

"Hey Ivan, check your six." -- Sidewinder missile jacket patch, showing a Sidewinder driving up the tail of a Russian Su-27