- We all want to know how to be a better person. The science can be surprising. First, remember context, context, context. Your context dramatically affects your behavior, so manipulating it is the easiest, most painless way to change yourself. This is why the religious are nicer on Sundays and mentioning God makes people clean up their act. Thinking about your childhood (seriously, get a teddy bear) and seeing others do nice things can make you act more ethically. Our circumstances can make it hard to be objective even when you really should be. Across the board, you behave better when you feel you’re being watched, whether it’s an image of a pair of eyes, a security camera or a mirror.
- Power corrupts so tread lightly when you have authority. Power can lead you to dehumanize people. It makes you believe misbehavior is okay. It comes in many forms.
- Stress can make you cheat. Lack of sleep can make you unethical and when faced with moral dilemmas you usually do what is easy, not necessarily what’s right. So learn how to de-stress.
- It’s not black and white. Men and women have different moral values and the sins they admit to reflect this. (And, no, women are not more ethical than men.)
- Sadly, this will not be easy. Bad is stronger than good. (And ethics books get stolen more frequently than other books.) Full disclosure is not a free pass. Feeling moral can lead you to act immorally and being ethical can hurt your income. So force yourself to be better ahead of time.
- Research also shows little things can make a difference:
- Play music with positive lyrics.
- Clean smells and the odor of cookies both make you behave better.
- Keep the area warm.
- Get outside in nature.
- Read fiction.
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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.
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