Another very interesting piece from Philosophy Bites, discussing moral psychology. Recent research shows that rather than having an ethical code that we simply stick to or don’t, our codes are very contingent on circumstance. For example, it has been shown that people who have recently been on the receiving end of a ‘gift’ – like finding a very small amount of money on the floor – are far more likely to respond to someone asking/begging for money.
It was another example that I thought amusing: groups of theology students were asked to study and prepare a sermon on the parable of the Good Samaritan. They were encouraged to really wrestle with it and discuss it with others. They were then told they had to go and preach their sermon, but on the way to the venue a person in need had been placed on the pavement, obviously in pain and in need of help.
The vast majority of those who were told ‘you need to hurry – you’re going to be late for your sermon’ literally walked past on the other side, totally ignoring the person in need. Not that I think this says anything profound about theology students. Rather, it should encourage us all to be aware of the ways in which our deeply held codes can be dependent on the contexts we find ourselves in.