The murky waters of moral mornings

This is the final entry of a three-part series of blog entries based on a series of three articles in which two teams of researchers go back and forth on what they think is the influence of time on day on our decisions. You can refresh on the original study here, and the counterargument that…

Everyday sadism and squashing bugs revisited

The karmic retribution for my recent exploration of whether willingness to kill bugs reflects “everyday sadism” is, apparently, a near-midnight discovery of the largest cockroach i have ever seen, running laps around my living room ceiling, and quite willing to remind me that, oh yeah, cockroaches can fly. As I texted my sister (note to self:…

No honor among the…happy?

Think back to the last time you were tested on the honor code. Perhaps you found a $5 bill on the office floor, and had the choice of just taking it for yourself or asking those nearby if they had dropped it. Perhaps a cashier gave you too much change. Perhaps a friend asked you…

A poor excuse for removing a peer-reviewed publication

I became disenchanted with the idea of e-books when Amazon reached into scores of Kindles and removed copies of (of all possible books) 1984 and Animal Farm. The notion that a major company had the power to deny access to any content they deemed problematic simply presented too many visions of reactive, totalitarian control. I never considered that…

How practicing compassion alters the brain

As tempting as it is to hope that one meditation practice could be a panacea within the mind – meditate, and become more mindful! improve your attention! cure your depression! notice when those around you need help! – I have to admit that I know the brain doesn’t work this way. The skills you practice…

If You Give A Child A Cookie…

There is only one universal of parenting I provide to my students: the only “good” parenting is parenting that attends and responds to the child’s needs, because each child is unique. Of course, there is an exception to every rule, and there is one law of parenting I will declare universal, which is that giving…

Ants, Vegetarianism, and Ethics

Two months ago, when ants invaded my kitchen, I reached for the bleach-based cleaner without compunction and massacred them en masse. A hundred died in the first hour of their discovery; a hundred more, at least, in the ongoing battle to convince them to find another food source. I shelled out for poising traps, I…

The Ethics of Obedience

There are few studies in psychology as infamous as Milgram’s study of obedience to authority, which, simply put, found that ordinary people were surprisingly willing to administer larger and larger shocks to a fellow volunteer who incorrectly answered memory questions, just because a man in a white lab coat insisted that they continue. It’s worth…

World War Wrapup: Explaining obedience without exonerating perpetrators

Investigating the psychology of war comes with a complex ethical dilemma: In attempting to understand how war and genocide can happen, we find ourselves in the position of explaining that people who claimed “we didn’t know” could have really convinced themselves that the Holocaust wasn’t happening, that SS officers who committed atrocities were influenced by natural human…