gmusic@nurturingnatures.co.uk

Invisibilty, and doing the right thing

This week the BBC’s moral maze  (http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/moralmaze)  provocatively asked about the role of individual conscience and whether people act less morally when they are unseen,  This came  on the back of scientists possibly having invented a Harry Potterish  ‘invisibility cloak’ capacity to become invisible by bending light etc. The program raised crucial matters relevant to issues currently in the news,  such as the banking scandals and what the likes of Bob Diamond  felt they should be able to ‘get away with’, as well as the shocking behaviours in mid-Staffordhsire NHS trust and in care homes where elderly residents were  abused. The 2 key issues  being debated were whether we need more regulation (eg of banks or hospitals) or   should moral acts by led by individual conscience, because externally imposed ‘targets’ and expectations in fact make people less personally motivated to do the right thing. These are thorny issues.

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Fairness is natural but what fairness?

In an age of increasing inequality and social divide there is often a lot of speculation about what we mean by fairness and justice. A fascinating new study by Patricia Kanngiesser from the University of Bristol and Prof Felix Warneken from Harvard University has shown how fairness seems to be something of an innate human trait.[1]. This is one of a swathe of studies looking at fairness, altruism and cooperation in children in recent years. In their new study children of about  3 years old were asked to collect coins using a fishing rod alongside a puppet partner. The researchers cleverly varied the work-contribution of both partners by manipulating how many coins each partner collected. The coins could then be exchanged for rewards. Interestingly the children kept fewer stickers for themselves when they had contributed little effort than when they had contributed the most, showing that they took fairness into account.

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