An Eroding Moral Code
Kevin Hassett expresses the interesting concern that a second wave of financial crisis may be in our future if homeowners (or, rather, home mortgagers) decide simply to walk away from houses on which they owe more than their worth. All losses would thereby transfer to banks’ bottom lines, eliminating more of the future wealth that is currently flowing through the current economy.
The essay’s worth reading on those grounds, alone, but here’s an intriguing bit of evidence about the mechanics of morality:
And there was an interesting twist: Of the students who had the chance to cheat, half were asked beforehand to list ten books that they remembered reading in high school, while the rest were asked to write down as many of the Ten Commandments as they could remember.
The results were stunning. On average, students in the control group answered 3.1 problems correctly. Students in the second group took the opportunity to cheat–under certain conditions: The ones who started by listing ten books from high school cheated, on average reporting that they had answered 4.1 problems correctly. The students who were asked to recall the Ten Commandments, by contrast, did not cheat, reporting on average 3.0 correct answers.
Apparently, thinking about the Ten Commandments put students in a moral frame of mind.