53% of Us Are Easily Tricked Into Arguing Against Our Moral Positions

More

We may be more open-minded than we care to think.

What's your stance the moral defensibility of prostitution? Are you sure? In a study published in PLoS ONE, Swedish researchers got 160 survey respondents to report their positions on a variety of morally sticky concepts -- and then got the majority of them to change their minds without even realizing it.

The video shows how they pulled off the trick, the gist of it being that the original statements that the participants rated their agreement or disagreement with were surreptitiously reversed. So when participants returned to their responses, it now appeared that they were agreeing or disagreeing with the direct opposite of what they had originally seen.  And voila -- those who found Israeli violence against Hamas morally reprehensible were suddenly supporting it.

These switches went unnoticed 69 percent of the time. This video doesn't show subjects arguing vehemently in favor of moral issues that they had just claimed to oppose, but 53 percent ending up doing just that, including the most polarized of respondents.

The positive takeaway is that people are more open-minded than we generally give them credit for. The more pessimistic way of looking at it is that we aren't all that principled, and the conceptions of morality upon which society is built are actually a huge sham. If nothing else, it definitely calls to question the utility of surveys being able to tell us anything about what people actually think.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Lindsay Abrams is an assistant editor at Salon and a former writer and producer for The Atlantic's Health Channel.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Why Are Americans So Bad at Saving Money?

The US is particularly miserable at putting aside money for the future. Should we blame our paychecks or our psychology?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

Just In