We've saved this one for last, because it's probably the saddest of all.
Now, let's say you never wear knockoffs, you avoid alcohol at all costs, you're completely uncreative, you just brushed your teeth, and you're also permanently miserable (which isn't hard to imagine). Surely then you've avoided all the pitfalls of being an asshole, right? No. You already know that answer is no. Every one of you is just as likely to be an amoral, unethical jerk as the rest of us, just as long as it doesn't take much work to do it.
"This hurts my neck. Can you just write my answers in for me?"
A study out of the University of Toronto in Canada (a country where everyone is allergic to being an asshole) asked participants to take a math test on a computer, but the computer had a glitch that they asked the subjects to overcome: The answers would appear on the screen. For half of the participants, the answers would show up if they pressed the space bar, and the other half would see the answers if they didn't press the Enter key within five seconds of seeing the question. The subtle difference was that, in the first group, they had to act if they wanted to cheat, but the second group could be passive about it. And of course, they all took the test while they were unknowingly observed, because science is voyeuristic by nature.
Naturally, the second group was significantly more likely to cheat. But that's not all. In another study, a computer program asked participants if they would volunteer to help a student with a learning disability complete a section of the test. The first group of participants were given direct "Yes" or "No" check boxes, while the second group had to follow another two links before they had to decide. Researchers found that when people were presented with the "Yes" or "No" choice up front, they were five times more likely to help the student compared to people who had to follow several links to help out. That's because when we're confronted with an ethical decision like this, it's much harder for us to say no when we don't have a way to justify it to ourselves. But when there's any sort of effort involved in doing the right thing, we say it's too complicated and we wash our hands of the whole thing.
"Here's some coffee. I'd take you to the shelter across town, but I've gotta go to work. Doctor. Doctor work."
What's more, you can see this at work in your life every single day. It's the reason Facebook has "Ignore" buttons for friend requests instead of "Deny" buttons. It's the reason invites have a "Maybe" option instead of just "Decline." It's the reason moms in sitcoms will only read their daughter's diary if the book happens to fall open on the floor while she's cleaning. These little things allow us to be passive assholes, satisfying our self-interest while protecting us from feeling too badly about being an outright dick about it. We're only about as honest as our options force us to be.
See more from XJ on his writing blog, and also, a shout out from Nadz to a friend and his music, Kyle Garvin
For more things science has to say about your behavior, check out 6 Factors That Secretly Influence Who You Have Sex With and 5 Douchebag Behaviors Explained by Science.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The North Korean Video Game for People Who Hate Fun.
And stop by LinkSTORM to learn why you eat too many tacos.
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