See me? Then I’ll behave...

In one of his dialogues, Plato writes about a ring that makes whoever wears it invisible. When Gyges discovers this ring and notices its ability, he immediately starts to act unethically to achieve power. Ultimately, he claims a kingdom without anyone knowing it was him and then enjoys his life as the new king. The story’s moral is that we only do justice because we don’t have the power to do injustice. Should or want? Not long ago I wrote about how we sometimes act in disregard with our (moral) principles. I explained the difference between the moment of acting and the moments of reflection (both before and after the action). Research shows that we act differently than we predict and think afterwards. Apparently, we get lost in the situation. We behave as we want in that specific situation, not as we think we should according to our moral principles. The important distinction here is about what we ‘want’ to do and what we ‘should’ do. I find it funny they call it ‘wanting’ to do something, because it makes me think that the ‘should’ is not what I want. But should I not ‘want’ to do what I ‘should’ do? And is it possible to ‘want’ something that I should not do, and simultaneously ‘want’ to do what I ‘should’ do? Are there different types of ‘wanting’ involved here? When we say that we ‘should’ behave in a certain way on future occasions, do we imply that we should ‘want’ to behave like we predict we will? What does it mean that we predict how we should behave? Should, would or want?   When we ask people to predict how they will behave, we ask them a question...

Forbidden fruits – Sanctions and side-effects...

Playing ‘hard to get’. We all know the idea that it will make us appear more attractive. Did you, as team leader or manager, ever think about the really desirable non available? We prohibit all kinds of behavior;  smoking, drinking, stealing, hitting, bullying… and we all experienced the feeling of curiosity for some forbidden fruit (hopefully some of the first examples). Sanctions are only necessary if people are not allowed to act in a certain way but do want to act in that way. Or the people are used to act in that way, or think it normal to act in that way. Sanctions often promote the action that is prohibited, because of two reasons: ethical fading and reactance. Everybody is doing it?! If there is a big group of others that have to hold themselves to the same code, it becomes less likely that the behavior of one employee has an influence on the total effect. So why act in agreement with the code if it does not matter? If all others fail to act properly the proper behavior of one individual doesn’t help, so in that case it would not matter to break the code either. Either way: the reasons to stick to the code are hard to find. Punishment and the disappearance of ethicality In a study people had to decide if they kept themselves to the cleaning agreement. Tenbrunsel and Messick studied what a sanction system did with the obligation to apply this environment friendly cleaning procedures. There were two scenario’s; they were either told about a sanction for surpassing the agreement,  or they were asked to keep themselves to the agreement because they promised to. Of those who would not be punished for transgressing...

Practice what you preach?!...

Not so long ago a parson got killed. It happened in the little village I happen to live in and it shocked us. Even more shocking was the disclosure of the offender: another parson and also his partner; the man with whom he lived together. How could a person that chose to live a moral life under the care of God, behave so brutal? He used an axe to kill a beloved and long known friend! This story came back to me immediately after I read about non-ethical behaving ethicists. The ethical ethicist Because ethicists devote their careers studying and teaching ethics and morality, one might expect ethicists to behave more ethical as others. All the ethics courses and workshops, that make people awware of the ethical aspects in the choices they make, are developed for some reason, right? Schwitzgebel did research after the ethicality of ethicists. In his study, he looked at several morally unaccepted actions and their prevalence within both society and a group of ethicists. The book-stealing ethicist In a study concerning the amount of lost books, he found that fairly obscure ethics books (most likely only borrowed by master students and teachers of ethics) were lost far more often compared to other books. A philosophy book was 50 to 150 percent more likely to be missing if it was an ethics book than if it was a nonethics book. Ethics professors were also more likely to condemn eating meat. They, however, ate just as much meat as the professors of the other philosophical departments. All this studying and talking about what is the right thing to do apparently didn’t help them to do the right thing. Ought and/or is Bazerman and Tenbrunsel make a distinction between how we should behave,...