Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Benefits of Simplified Morality

I spend a lot of time trying to simplify complicated topics. Everything from immigration, to voting, to WikiLeaks. Like the title of this blog suggests, I'm trying to filter a lot of information into understandable bits. At the same time, I've longed to show just how un-simple many topics are. Everything from charity, to foreign policy, to human/animal relations. This comes from one of my dislikes of oversimplifying issues that are not black and white. But yet we simplify things all the time. We simplify stories to make them convincing. I simplify US History to make it digestible. We all simplify ourselves into clear likable labels. This might be why:
We propose that the rule that is cognitively most accessible during the decision making process (e.g., “Save lives” or “Do not kill”) will influence how people solve these moral dilemmas. Three studies are reported that indeed demonstrate that the most accessible rule influences willingness to intervene within footbridge dilemmas. This effect is found even when the accessibility of the rule is induced subliminally.
By creating a helpful set of personal rules we increase the likelihood we will follow them. We can improve our moral math by simplifying the equations. This is why when the normal rules of society break down, so do our personal moral standards. So have a set of moral rules to live by, but be sure not to overestimate their scope.

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