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Compelling stuff. I think your model is resting on pretty solid ground. A good model makes testable predictions about the future (in this case, future actions) as well explains and is consistent with past occurrences. I think once you run through a few example scenarios the model as illustrated above becomes pretty easy to follow.

I wonder, did the researchers truly understand the significance of their findings? Or perhaps they may have rationalized away their own past unethical behavior as separate from what they were seeing with study participants, as in it never actually happened. I am probably doing that now myself!

Philip B

While reading this post it reminded me of the Nuremberg Trials and the defense used by the Germans for their behavior. Not only that example but the example of many Jews regarding the behavior towards the Palestinians.

It would seem to me that history, not just recent, is littered with people having to rationalize their actions in order to view themselves in a positive light.

Americans seem as prone to this as any other human on the planet with the belief of many that we are the poster boy for Democracy as Obama "told" the Vietnamese this week. To paraphrase he told them that if they would allow freedoms (implying that the U.S. does) their economy would prosper (as ours does).

I agree that more research should be done, but if it would result in our having to reflect on who we are and have to accept we're not such "good" people I sadly doubt there will be a rush to explore that line of thinking.

Mike Roberts

Dave, your observation, Somehow, a person "knows", at least unconsciously, that he is doing something "wrong" is pertinent to this, I think. If it's known unconsciously, how can we be sure that it's known at all? I just wonder how valid the study was, given the individual perception of ethics (each of us has a different stance on what is ethical or moral, though they may overlap by a lot). It seems as though participants could objectively tell if some actions might be perceived by others to be unethical and it seems to be this aspect that the study was measuring - how memory of actions that may be perceived to be unethical, by those who may have some impact on the subject's life, could be diminished.

Maybe it doesn't matter which kind of memory it is but couldn't it be true that those who consistently act in ways that others think unethical do not, themselves, think those ways are unethical?

Dennis Mitchell

My grandmother once pushed her little brother off the swing. That was her only memory of wrongdoing. Once grandpa had to spank me for not putting away my toys. I've been perfect except for that one incident. So I'm a touch screwed up....


I don't know about this...
So why do I cringe in shame and guilt when I remember my unethical behaviors of 40 years ago?
I'm not the only one either. Many people I've talked to remember things they've done and feel bad about it.

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