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Remarkably, Data Shows That Morality is Not Declining

Updated: Mar 18

For decades, people worldwide have said they believe morality is declining, but new research shows this could be a cognitive illusion.

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Ex-President Donald Trump | Wikipedia

We've all got used to listening and trying to decipher the dishonesty and outright lies of Trump and Boris - to name but two - and cogitating on the moral compass of those in power. And, worse yet, worrying that things will be even less pleasant for our children and grandchildren. But, you may be surprised to learn, the hallowed journal, Nature, says we have nothing to be unduly worried about.

Psychologists Adam Mastroianni and Daniel Gilbert examined surveys conducted in 60 countries between 1949 and 2019 about moral values, and found that in response to 84 percent of the questions, most participants said they felt morality had declined. No surprise there.

In Mastroianni and Gilbert's own 2020 surveys, U.S. participants of all demographics said they thought people were less "kind, honest, nice, and good" now compared to earlier times. The researchers then studied similar historical surveys.

"If, as people all over claim, morality has been declining steadily and precipitously for decades, then people's reports of current morality should also have declined over the years," the study authors wrote. They didn't, though, and Mastroianni said this means the perception of moral decline is either false or "it's at least very difficult to find any evidence that it has happened."

Their new study in Nature shows that the perception of moral decline is actually a psychological illusion to which people throughout history have been susceptible. Our belief that people were better behaved in the old days is caused by a tendency to forget about the bad things that happened in the past, and by an overexposure to bad news in the present. Bad news in the present? Isn't that yet another good reason to enjoy OGN Daily?


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