Monday, April 5, 2021

Recount to People Their Virtuous Deeds

You’re more likely to behave yourself when somebody’s taking notes. That includes when the somebody is you.
     Northwestern University studies find associations between a person’s rating of their memory quality and the degree to which they donate money to a charity, donate time to help an acquaintance, or adhere to healthy habits. If you think you’ll easily remember your good deeds, those good deeds count more in maintaining a self-image you desire. Recognizing this, you’ll be attracted to the virtuous path.
     When you’re wanting others to donate, to eat healthy, or to exercise regularly let them know you’ll bolster their memory. You’ll send them reminders of what they’ve done. This technique could be especially influential with people who rate their memory as poor, such as elderly adults.
     Researchers at University of Auckland, Victoria University of Wellington, and Gadjah Mada University saw this as building pride. You’ll receive larger donation amounts by assuring prospective donors their contributions will be formally recognized. This was done by saying the donation would be announced and that they’d receive a thank you card. Along with this, pride was activated with the tag line “Be proud of what you can do” or by having the prospect read about someone who was proud of an accomplishment for which they’d worked hard.
     Reminding people of their transgressions might not work nearly as well in motivating good behavior. People prefer to hide from facts which threaten a positive self-image. Cornell University and University of Chicago studies identified how we often sidestep encouragement to act responsibly. We hide from the truth, generating cover by giving as reasons for our actions some characteristics of the situation relevant to what we want to do, but irrelevant to conscientiousness.
     The researchers saw this in experiments involving calorie information on menus, cause-related marketing, and an offer to view one’s skin damage from exposure to the sun. In each case, the consumers were given additional information they could use to justify ignoring the socially responsible action. And in each case, the consumers tended to use such information as cover.
     The studies investigated public choices, in which the decision was known by others, and private choices, in which the consumer believed the decision was not. Cover was seen in both types, indicating it has to do with self-image, not just how we’re seen by others. Here, the transgressive behavior wasn’t influenced by somebody taking notes.

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