As morally sturdy as we may feel, it turns out that humans are natural hypocrites when it comes to passing moral judgment.
- The problem with having a compass as the symbolic representation of morality is that due north is not a fixed point. Liane Young, Boston College associate professor and director of the Morality Lab, explains how context, bias, and tribal affiliation influence us enormously when we pass moral judgments.
- Moral instinct is tainted by cognitive bias. Humans evolved to be more lenient to their in-groups—for example excusing a beloved politician who lines their pockets while lambasting a colleague for the exact same transgression—and to care more about harm done close to them than harm done farther away, for example, to people in another country.
- The challenge for humans in a globalized and polarized world is to become aware of our moral biases and learn to apply morality more objectively. How can we be more rational and less hypocritical about our morals? "I think that clarifying the value that you are consulting for a particular problem is really critical," says Young.
A new study found that personality growth in young adults predicted career benefits such as income, degree attainment, and job satisfaction.
Success with the Big 5<p>That's the conclusion of a recent <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797620957998" target="_blank">longitudinal study</a> published in Psychological Science. The study followed two samples of Icelandic youths from roughly ages 17 to 29. Its researchers used data across three and five time points to measure the young adults on the Big Five personality traits (openness, extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and emotional stability). It also surveyed them for five indicators of early career success. These were income, degree attainment, occupational prestige, and job and career satisfaction.</p><p>The study's findings showed that personality growth predicted career outcomes better than "adolescent trait levels and crystallized ability." Across both samples, the researchers found extroversion, conscientiousness, and emotional stability to have the strongest effects. Specifically, conscientiousness was tied to career satisfaction, emotional stability to income and career satisfaction, and extroversion to job and career satisfaction.</p><p>"Overall, the findings highlight the importance of personality development throughout childhood, adolescence and young adulthood for promoting different aspects of career success," Kevin Hoff, lead author and assistant professor of industrial-organizational psychology at the University of Houston, <a href="https://uh.edu/news-events/stories/2020/december-2020/12022020-hoff-personality-maturity-career.php" target="_blank">said in a release</a>.</p><p>Hoff believes these results support policies designed to help young people develop personality-based skills. "The study showed you're not just stuck with your personality traits, and if you change over time in positive ways, that can have a big impact on your career," he said.</p><p>According to the release, the study is the first to assess the predictive link between personality growth and career outcomes across a decade of young adulthood. While preliminary, it does fit in with other studies looking into the relationship between personality traits and career success. </p><p><a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1069072703254501" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A 2003 study</a> published in the Journal of Career Assessment surveyed more than 5,000 individuals. Its results found that conscientiousness, extroversion, and openness correlated with career satisfaction. Similarly, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1744-6570.1999.tb00174.x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a 2006 study</a> published in Personnel Psychology drew on data from <a href="http://ihd.berkeley.edu/research-centers/inter-generational-studies" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Intergenerational Studies</a>. It found that conscientiousness positively predicted extrinsic career success (i.e., income and status) as well as intrinsic success (i.e., job satisfaction).</p>
The change you want to be<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="67cab64f293633035f0c699f71a5d426"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/vyJ_hhninDw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>William James famously penned that personality becomes "<a href="https://www.apa.org/pubs/books/4318271" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">set in plaster</a>" by the age of 30, never to soften again. There's some truth to this. Personality traits do remain relatively stable throughout our lifetimes. Your inherently disorganized friend won't transform into Marie Kondo because they watched a YouTube tutorial on shirt folding.</p><p>But many studies show that our personalities aren't immutable, either. We can remold ourselves well beyond 30, shifting our traits on their continuum in ways that can be either beneficial or deleterious. One such study, <a href="http://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037/pspp0000210" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology</a>, assessed participants' personality traits for 50 years. If found that as people mature over time, they also accumulate personality changes.</p><p>"The rankings (of personality traits) remain fairly consistent. People who are more conscientious than others their age at 16 are likely to be more conscientious than others at 66. On average, everyone becomes more conscientious, more emotionally stable, and more agreeable," Rodica Damian, the study's lead author and the director of the Personality Development and Success Lab at the University of Houston, <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201808/how-do-personality-traits-change-16-66" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">said in a statement</a>.</p><p>Cultivating such growth can be difficult as these traits often require the very talents we feel we lack. To become more extroverted, for example, one needs to be less introverted. It seems both obvious and self-defeating—if one was more outgoing, one would be more outgoing. Because of this, interventions typically focus on actions that alter how we typically think or behave (hence the name cognitive-behavioral therapy). These actions can be small at first, but they have to be deliberate and specific, the so-called <a href="https://bigthink.com/personal-growth/brain-hack-new-years-resolution" target="_self">SMART goals</a>.</p><p>To become more extroverted, introverts don't have to throw lavish, hedonistic house parties to rival those of rock-'n'-roll legends. Instead, the introvert starts by attending a small book club on a specific day and tasking themselves to talk at the meeting This is the first step that makes subsequent steps easier, and after an accumulation of such steps, self-perspective begins to shift. </p><p>"Once you start to change those behaviors, you'll start to change the way you see yourself," <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201604/can-introvert-ever-change" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Susan Krauss Whitbourne</a>, Professor Emerita of Psychology and Brain Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, writes. "That change in <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/identity" title="Psychology Today looks at identity" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">identity</a> may provide the key to personality trait change. You change the narrative from 'I've always been an introvert' to 'I've usually engaged in introverted behavior.' Seeing yourself as in charge of your personality rather than being run by it may be the key to having your personality suit instead of define you."</p><p>The same goes for conscientiousness. Taking on tasks and responsibilities that <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/finding-new-home/201902/three-potential-ways-become-more-conscientious" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">require one to utilize conscientiousness</a> brings about that change over time. As Damian noted, people typically become more conscientious as they get older. One reason is simply that adulthood requires more diligence, discipline, and self-control than high school and punishes a lack of those traits more harshly. Adult environments also tend to reward and support such characteristics. By realizing that with intention, we can self-furnish our environments to support and foster that change.</p><p>We can also hack our metacognition—the way we think about our thinking—to great effect. Such techniques are often used in <a href="https://cogbtherapy.com/cbt-emotion-regulation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">emotional regulation therapy </a>to intervene in heightened or easily triggered outbursts. Mindfulness, for example, teaches people to identify their emotions, and the practice helps people from becoming overwhelmed through the act of labeling an emotion as something distinct from themselves. Recognizing the difference between being angry and feeling angry assists in self-modulation.<em></em></p><p>Some techniques and interventions may improve certain personality traits better than others, but they all demonstrate a key takeaway. Practice won't make perfect, but it can shift personality to be more in line with our goals. While personality may not be the only factor in career and life success, self-improvement will pay dividends to both.</p>
The color of toys has a much deeper effect on children than some parents may realize.
- The idea that blue is for boys and pink is for girls plays out in gender reveals and in the toy aisle, but where does it come from and what limits is it potentially placing on children?
- Lisa Selin Davis traces the gendering of toys and other objects back to the 1920s and explains how, over time, these marketing strategies were falsely conflated with biological traits.
- The "pink-blue divide" affects boys and girls on a psychological level. For example, psychologists discovered that when girls exit their intense 'pink princess' phase between ages 3-6 and move into a tomboy 'I hate pink' phase at age 6-8 "that is actually a moment of girls realizing that what's marked as feminine is devalued and so they're distancing themselves from it to prop themselves up higher on the ladder," says Selin Davis.
They came from different places and with different ideas, which still resonate today.
- Early British settlement of the American colonies came in four distinct waves, from different places.
- Puritans, Cavaliers, Quakers, and Borderers had their own ideas of what America should be.
- Some of the cultural fault lines in today's America can be traced back to those differences.
Four 'folkways'<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0MDY2NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTAzNzk0OX0.YfBxVdS46dX1eUZhGA_4remlW4YYMIxlZ65wjQ2pyMs/img.jpg?width=980" id="d2108" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3f635f82a66c99bf08059b73b2e57f75" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="" data-width="3573" data-height="1925" />
Quaker pioneer William Penn (center) treating with the Delaware Indians for the purchase of what was to become Pennsylvania.
Image: Frieze by Constantino Brumidi (1865) in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol; via Architect of the Capitol - Public Domain.<p>How many Americans are of British descent? It's a surprisingly difficult question to answer. Is that because, in an age of hyphenated identities, the founding one is still the default? Or has that identity become so amalgamated that it is now irrelevant? Perhaps the correct answer is: a bit of both. </p><p><span></span>In the 1980 Census, 61.3 million Americans (32 percent) self-reported British ancestry; most claimed English descent (26 percent), followed by Scottish (4 percent), and tiny amounts of Welsh (<1 percent) and Northern Irish. In the 2010 Census, that figure had dropped to 37.6 million (14 percent), with just 8 percent reporting English heritage, 3 percent Scottish and 2 percent Scotch-Irish. </p><p>The precipitous drop in self-reported British antecedents corresponds in part with the rise of those who identify as (unhyphenated) 'American', up from 12.4 million (5 percent) in the 1990 Census to 20.2 million in 2000 (7 percent) – the largest growth of any ethnic group in the 1990s.</p><p>However, back around the year 1700, about 80 percent of the population of what was to become the United States were of English (or Welsh) descent, with about 11 percent of African origin, and the rest being Dutch (4 percent), Scottish (3 percent) and other European. The imprint of the British on early American society was overwhelming, diverse and long-lasting: the regional and cultural differences between the settler groups created distinct regional and cultural identities in America.</p><p>That's the argument made by David Fischer, a history professor who in 1989 published a 900-page treatise on early migration to North America called "<a href="https://global.oup.com/ushe/product/albions-seed-9780195069051" target="_blank" style="">Albion's Seed</a>." He identified four British 'folkways' that came over to the other side of the Atlantic in the 17th and 18th centuries (<em>see map</em>), each with their own ideas about the liberty they wanted to find there.<br></p>
From exodus to flight<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0MDY2NS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NDg1MzczOX0.-LwTLCpuIub9QhTVWL9vhnd8Jlz9j8aRyt9bePqQPuo/img.png?width=980" id="65f97" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4457df0ca7f66fe87026322bad771da6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bMap showing the origin and destination of four British 'folkways' that influenced American society." data-width="493" data-height="472" />
Map showing the origin and destination of four British 'folkways' that influenced American society.
Credit: JayMan<p><strong></strong><strong>1. The Exodus (1629-41)</strong></p><ul> <li>About 21,000 Puritans, migrating from East Anglia to New England.</li><li>These religious fundamentalists believed in 'ordered liberty': everybody had the right to live by their own rules, and the duty to live according to God's law.</li><li>The Puritans were a major influence on the culture of the Northeastern U.S., especially in terms of business and education.</li></ul><p>These religious fundamentalists are the ones who came over on the Mayflower and gave America Thanksgiving and the self-image of being a 'City on a Hill'. Puritan society was gloomy and repressive: 'exceeding the bounds of moderation' was a punishable offense, and even just 'wasting time' got you into trouble.</p>The other side of the coin: life was very well-ordered. There was little income inequality and crime rates were low. Not only was charity towards poor the rule, being uncharitable was, yes, a punishable offense. Domestic abuse was punished severely. Women had a relatively high degree of equality. And government operated via town assemblies in which all could have a say.<p><br><br><strong>2. Cavaliers and their Servants (1642-75)</strong></p><ul><li>Some 45,000 Cavaliers drawn from English nobility and their indentured servants, migrating from the South of England to Virginia and the Lowland South.</li><li>These aristocrats believed in 'hegemonic liberty': dominion over self, and others. In other words: keeping slaves was okay, but domination by others was not.</li><li>The Cavaliers were the foundation of plantation culture in the South. </li></ul><p>The Cavaliers came from the losing side of the Civil War in England, which was now led by the Puritan-inspired Oliver Cromwell. Royalist, Anglican, and aristocratic, they brought along with them their indentured servants – more than 75 percent of the total migration – hoping to recreate in Virginia and environs the socially stratified agrarian society they had left behind.</p><p><span></span>When their servants began dying en masse, they started importing African slaves, laying the groundwork for the race-based slavery system that underpinned the economy of the South until the end of the Civil War.<br><br></p><strong>3. The Friends' Migration (1675-1725)</strong><ul><li><strong></strong>Around 23,000 Quakers, migrating from Northern England to the Delaware Valley in Pennsylvania, and later to the Midwest.</li><li>These religious liberals believed in 'reciprocal liberty': granting others the freedoms they wanted for themselves, including the right to vote, to own, to be free, to worship, and to a fair trial.</li><li>Quakers had an important impact on the industrial culture of the Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern regions of the U.S.</li></ul><span></span>Halfway between the fun-hating Puritans and the pleb-hating Cavaliers, the Quakers seem modern and likeable. Believing everybody intrinsically good, they practiced tolerance, pacifism, gender equality, and racial harmony. They opposed slavery, the death penalty, and cruelty to animals and children.<br><br><p>Quakers replaced a wide range of social acknowledgements according to rank (bows, nods, grovels) by a single, neutral equivalent: the handshake. Quakerism was perhaps one of the first Christian denominations to become indistinguishable from liberal, secular modernity. On the other hand, they were even more prudish than the Puritans. Doctors had a hard time treating Quakers because they described everything from their necks to their waists as their 'stomachs', and everything below as their 'ankles'.<br><br> </p><p><strong>4. The Flight from Northern Britain (1717-75)</strong></p><ul><li>Some 250,000 'Borderers', migrating from the Anglo-Scottish borderlands and Ulster to the Backcountry of Appalachia.</li><li>These individualists believed in 'natural liberty': freedom to do as one pleases, without interference from society or government.</li><li>Borderers contributed to the rural culture of America's South and the ranch culture of its West. </li></ul><p><span></span>Inhabiting the border regions between Scotland and England, and between protestant settlers and catholic natives in Ireland, the Borderers were used to violence and lawlessness, and to lives that were nasty, brutish and short. </p>It is no coincidence that they ended up in Appalachia, at that time itself a violent border region. It was the kind of world they knew. Borderers were wary of government, prone to violent family feuds, and not bothered by traditional morality. By one estimate, in the year 1767, 94 percent of all 'backcountry' brides were pregnant on their wedding day. These Borderers were not much beloved by other settler groups in America. One Pennsylvanian writer called them "the scum of two nations". But the Borderers also contributed vigorously to the success of both the American Revolution and America's westward expansion.
'Blue' vs. 'Red'?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0MDczNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MzE5MTc4NH0.EtbfEc9BlGG8R4VlyHr2W7kQ0LzvRdAHRRRlsEI01Pg/img.jpg?width=980" id="ce2a3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ba2cd744238f9a08ce63e85be2860528" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Representative Preston Brooks (SC) caning Senator Charles Sumner (MA) on the Senate floor. The attack, on 22 May 1856, symbolised the breakdown of civil discourse between North and South, prefiguring the Civil War." data-width="565" data-height="370" />
Representative Preston Brooks (SC) caning Senator Charles Sumner (MA) on the Senate floor. The attack, on 22 May 1856, symbolised the breakdown of civil discourse between North and South, prefiguring the Civil War.
Credit: Lithograph by John L. Magee (1856); Public Domain.<p>It's tempting, and perhaps not entirely unjustified, to see in these four strains of British 'folkways' the antecedents of some of America's current cultural divides. One might for example see Puritans and Quakers as constituting elements of the 'blue' tribe, while Borderers and Cavaliers could be considered the ancestors of the 'red' tribe.</p><p><span></span>But thinking of America as a "death match between Puritan-Quaker culture and Cavalier-Borderer culture", as one commentator put it, is perhaps a bit too easy. There may be plenty of overlap within either pair, there is also much to distinguish each from the other. And then there are other and subsequent migrations contributing to and complicating the picture.</p><p>Nevertheless, a bit of cultural archaeology can be illuminating, if only to see where the bodies are buried.<br></p><p><strong><br></strong></p><p><strong>Strange Maps #1049</strong></p><p><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a><em>.</em></p><p><em>Update 30 September: image reference for the map was changed to reflect <a href="https://jaymans.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/maps-of-the-american-nations/" target="_blank">the original source and producer of the map in question</a>.</em></p>
Thought expriments are great tools, but do they always do what we want them to?
- Thought experiments are quite popular, though some get more time in the sun than others.
- While they are supposed to help guide our intuition to help solve difficult problems, some are a bit removed from reality.
- Can we trust the intuitions we have about problems set in sci-fi worlds or that postulate impossible monsters?