Two psychologists say in a new book that we’re flat out wrong if we believe that a person’s character is unchangeable. In other words, nobody’s either good or bad; we can all be manipulated to act out of character. Author David DeSteno tells the Boston Globe:
We have to understand that behaviors for better or for ill, vice or virtue, aren’t always a function of intention or our ability to control them. You have to understand how the system works to gain control of it.
Later DeSteno is asked “Do you think of yourself as a good person?”
DESTENO: I think, ultimately, we’re all going to be judged by our behaviors….[But] the question itself presumes an inherent trait, and we are arguing there isn’t one. The question of, “Am I a good person?” is an evolving question or an iterative question….To some extent that’s going to be dependent on what I am doing and the weight of those acts I have committed, which is changing. The question is, “Am I a good person now?” not “Am I a good person?”
I’m intrigued by his approach, especially the idea that the question isn’t whether or not I’m inherently good, but whether I’m a good person right now. The more I study goodness, and the art of being good, the more I think it takes hard work, understanding and a ton of practice, which seems to be what DeSteno is saying. Interesting.
Please Like the Search for Goodness on Faceback. It’s a great way to keep up!