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March 11, 2016


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"Some were then told that for each question they got right, the probability would increase of a mouse being gassed to death."

Were they expected really to believe such a thing?

Luis Enrique

this kind of stuff strikes me as exposed to the problems currently causing a crisis in social psychology research:


(I haven't read paper for all I know they do everything right)

Miguel Madeira

I think there is nothing in the expriment saying that "skilled" people are more amoral; what the expriment says is that people behave in in more amoral ways if their skills are being measured (a very different thing, I think).

Then, is not a conflit between skills and morality, but between pride and morality.


@Luis - I don't know if their research is replicable, as it hasn't been tried yet. However, the list of examples I gave suggests that the phenomenon they describe is common in the real world. For me, that informal external validity matters more that p-values. (I suspect we under-rate the power of informal statistical thinking, and over-rate that of formal tests).
@ Miguel. That's a good point. But the real world examples I gave are also all cases where skills are being measured, & where results matter. The phenomenon seems real, even if Falk and I have misdescribed the precise mechanism.
@ cjcjc - yes: mice are often gassed to death after being used in other experiments.

Christiaan Hofman

I really don't see how this experiment shows such a connection between skill and (im)moral behavior. That connection seems to be a result from the design of the test rather than the way the test objects behaved. It's the test's design that, artificially, connects "doing well in a test" to "immoral behavior". And finding that skill increases "doing well in a test", well, that's not a big surprise. So the moral part is just a irrelevant side effect from the test. What if the situation was reversed, and the test objects were told the chance of a mouse being gassed was *reduced* instead? I am pretty sure the conclusion would now have been that skill increases *moral* behavior instead, no trade off! See what I did?


I agree with the others. I can't see the implication you draw from this paper.

Sukh Hayre

The reason you feel less like to be a victim of crime in a richer environment probably has more to do with the fact that it's just that the risk isn't worth the reward.

How much of this is a result of the fact that the institutions in place allow the citizens of these countries to benefit from what they are able to 'legally" extract from poorer nations due to their stronger bargaining position and the fact that they benefit from in effect supporting the few corrupt "leaders" in other countries. The developed nation's citizens benefit, the few in a poor country benefit, and the vast majority in the poor country get screwed, so it may feel less safe because these individuals do not have the luxury of having had all their basic safety needs met.

Matt Moore

Only the accounting example is valid.

There is no question that people can perform in morally dubious environments. The contention is that personal enjoyment of performance is a benefit that people consider in making moral decisions.

Which, under a utilitarian perspective, is completely correct.

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