Apr 23, 2007

Great Article on Lying

The Guardian posted an article on lying over the weekend which contains a great quote about detecting deception:

"The results are clear. Liars are just as likely as truth-tellers to look you in the eye, they don't move their hands around nervously and they don't shift about in their seats (if anything, they are a little more static than truth-tellers). People fail to detect lies because they are basing their opinions on behaviours that are not actually associated with deception."
The entire article can be found here and it highlights many of the problems people encounter when trying to detect deception.

Apr 17, 2007

Survey Results on Infidelity

A new survey on infidelity shows some interesting results. Msnbc and Ivillage just released their survey results on cheating and among the findings:

  • Roughly 50% of men and women have cheated at one time or another, but only about a quarter have cheated in their current relationship.
  • Most people get away with cheating; most partners never discover the truth and few people confess to cheating.
  • Men are more likely to cheat for sexual satisfaction and diversity, while women are more likely to report emotional reasons for cheating.
All of the survey results can be found here.

Apr 6, 2007

Morals about Infidelity are Relative

Are moral standards relative?

I think most people would like to think that their morals are absolute, something is right or wrong, end of story.

But, more often than not, I think our morals are driven by our self-interest. How does someone's behavior impact me? If someone's behavior has a negative impact on me, it's wrong. But, if their behavior doesn't necessarily have a negative impact on me, then our judgments can be more nuanced.

Case in point, CBS just published a story about infidelity by presidential candidates. It seems like people are willing to overlook a politician's infidelity and cheating, as long as people perceive that the candidate in question has the public's interest at heart. People do not necessarily care that a politician may have cheated on a spouse, but what's in it for me?

When people do us harm, it is wrong. When people try to help us, but cause harm to others, we tend to become more morally flexible.

I also believe that when people are very morally outraged, it may not reflect as much on their moral standards, but that they can not calculate any benefit for themselves by forgiving the person who may have done something wrong.

Apr 3, 2007

When Good People Do Bad Things....

People, who have been hurt in a relationship, often wonder how someone they love could treat them so poorly.

I think that most callous behavior is driven by one of two explanations.

To begin with, some people are just naturally more selfish and self-centered. Some people have little empathy or respect for another person's feelings... it's all about what they want. Such individuals are often very manipulative and underhanded when it comes to love and romance. The website, lovefraud, does a great job of trying to explain such behavior.

The other explanation is probably more troubling, because it can be harder to understand.

People, who are basically empathetic and caring, can behave the same as individuals who have little regard for other people's feelings. Social science research has consistently shown that good people can do great harm when placed in wrong situation. In particular, the work of Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo demonstrates how most people can be led to cause others unimaginable harm. Dr. Zimbardo discusses this phenomenon in an interview in the New York Times today. It is a must read if you want to understand how easily negative behavior can be brought about.

And when close relationships become marked by competition rather than cooperation, the same holds true - decent people can do awful things to each other.

Unfortunately, the harm done by relatively decent people probably hurts more profoundly than the harm done by more self-centered individuals. People expect selfish people to behave poorly, but when hurt comes from unexpected sources it can have a greater impact.