Why Good People Turn Bad video
Can a good person at any given moment commit something unethical and even evil? Carl Jung said that we all have a shadow, a darker side that we are not aware of. Let's analyze what science tells us about this issue.
Can good people do bad things? Is it possible that someone we love and admire can do something unexpected and harmful at any given time? Personality psychology tells us yes. Furthermore, history is full of situations in which the human being acts in a hostile way and crosses those lines of what we consider ethical and even moral.
We would love to be able to affirm what Jean-Jacques Rousseau told us in his day " we people are oriented towards goodness and nobility ". Later, Thomas Hobbes would indicate to us that what really moves us is fear and selfishness. However, from a psychobiological point of view, we could say that in each of us there is both the capacity to do good and to do evil.
We know that factors such as education and the context in which we grow significantly mediate our behaviors, values and integrity. However, this does not mean that the world's noblest man or woman acts dishonestly at some point. There are a thousand circumstances, factors, and triggers capable of testing our moral strength.
Let's analyze this topic a little more.
Can good people do bad things?
Before delving into whether good people can do bad things, it is important to dwell on one aspect. What do we really mean by "good people"? Sometimes expressions like being good or being bad fall into somewhat reductionist and even subjective definitions.
However, from an ethical point of view we could relate kindness with the ability to respect the other, seek their well-being, be willing to adapt to social norms and also promote aspects such as social justice, altruism , etc. We all somehow know someone like that and therefore it is not difficult for us to identify the noble and good personality by nature.
Now we must not deceive ourselves. Because when asked if good people can do something bad, the answer is simple and forceful: "yes." As Sigmund Freud said in his day, the instinct of goodness (eros) as well as that of evil (thanatos) arises in us. Only circumstances will determine which side emerges at each moment. Let's learn more data.
Temptation, ethical dilemmas, and the occasional slip
When we talk about doing "bad things" we are not referring exclusively to evil as such , to that adverse, Machiavellian and harmful essence that would be carried out by someone with an antisocial or psychopathic personality. Within this dimension there are also less serious aspects, but unethical, such as, for example, thefts, lies, fraud, avoiding responsibilities, etc.
Thus, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology conducted a research in 2015 led by Oliver Sheldon that offered us a series of interesting data on this topic. In this work, one fact was revealed, and that is that most people control their temptation quite well when it comes to doing something unethical (such as stealing something like office supplies).
It is true that desire appears, that many come to think that " if I take this, nobody will notice it ." However, once it is reasoned a little more, this situation ends up being dismissed. Now there is a curious exception. Sometimes we can also say the following: "Just because I once took office supplies home for personal use, doesn't mean I'm a thief"
That is, committing a punctual and occasional transgression in life can be interpreted as something acceptable. The person comes to think that this act will not change what one is (someone good and respectable).
Group pressure and obedience
Good people can do bad things and most of the time it happens under peer pressure . To understand it better, we just have to remember Milgram's famous experiment in which a student applied electric shocks to another one urged by an authority figure.
The pressure of the environment and the context challenged the personal consciousness of the participant in this controversial investigation of social psychology. The same can happen in any other context. Sometimes, when we are urged by third parties, the possibility that we commit something illegal or unethical increases.
The spread of responsibility, if everyone does it too
There are those who call it, vulgarly, "herd effect." They are those situations in which a certain group of people commit something unethical or moral and we end up imitating them ourselves . Here there is no pressure or coercion. Good people can do something reprehensible by feeling that their responsibility is diluted because they are part of a group.
The "diffusion of responsibility" was, in fact, a theory developed by Darley and Latané, in 1968, following the famous case of Kitty Genovese . This is one of the most gruesome cases in criminal history: a young woman was murdered and sexually assaulted very close to her home. Of the 38 neighbors who heard her screams, none came to react.
Good people can do bad things: when the end justifies the means
Robert Sapolsky is a professor of biological science and neurology at Stanford University . One of his best-known books is Why do people do bad things? In this work, it starts from a very interesting starting point: why love and hate are such similar emotions in the brain? Sometimes one feeling is very close to the other, so much so that we can hate that person whom we adore today.
One thing he makes clear to us in his book is that no one is essentially good or essentially bad. We can all slide from one pole to another at a given moment if circumstances orchestrate it. People are often governed by impulses, needs, fears and passions . That can make us do something unethical if we see it as justifiable.
This may explain, for example, such controversial acts as stealing if there are deficiencies, letting ourselves be carried away by violence to defend ourselves or even to avenge what we interpret as justice.
To conclude, Carl Jung once said it: "a shadow resides within us, a part that we do not always want to see, but that can manifest itself in the least expected moment." We are all light and darkness, in all of us there is a great capacity to do good, but also to lead to evil.
We must know how to choose, remember our own values and understand that there is no worse path than that where we let glimpse the darkest part of ourselves.
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