A Bias To Virtue

An article in the Dallas Morning News this morning reinforces my comment to an acquaintance on a flight. She expressed doubt that valuing virtues could ever win the war against the un-virtuous and asked how that would ever happen. “Because there is a natural bias to want to be virtuous. No one wants to be a thief. Children naturally want to be good.”

This article proves that is true.

HUMAN BEHAVIOR ‘Lost wallet’ study finds we care
NEW YORK — People are more likely to return a lost wallet if it contains money — the more the better.
That’s the surprising conclusion from researchers who planted more than 17,000 “lost wallets” across 355 cities in 40 countries, and kept track of how often somebody contacted the supposed owners.
The presence of money — the equivalent of about $13 in local currency — boosted this response rate to about 51%, vs. 40% for wallets with no cash. That trend showed up in virtually every nation.
Researchers raised the stakes in the U.S., the United Kingdom and Poland. The response jumped to 72% for wallets containing the equivalent of about $94, vs. 61% for those containing $13.
If no money was enclosed, the rate was 46%.
How can this be?
“The evidence suggests that people tend to care about the welfare of others, and they have an aversion to seeing themselves as a thief,” said Alain Cohn of the University of Michigan, one author who reported the results Thursday in the journal Science .
Another author, Christian Zuend of the University of Zurich, said “it suddenly feels like stealing” when there’s money in the wallet. “And it feels even more like stealing when the money in the wallet increases.”
Dan Ariely, a psychology professor at Duke University not involved in the research, said the conclusions fit with research that indicates keeping a larger amount of money would be harder for a person to rationalize. “It very much fits with the way social scientists think about dishonesty,” he said.

Dallas Morning News, Friday, June 21, 2019. http://epaper.dallasnews.com/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=8d13ec44-183f-4ab4-a105-e0507b11c631

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