Saturday, 26 October 2013

More mores from science

by Vidya Jonnalagadda
Science does more than explain the “Why” and “How” of nature, it makes humans more just and, well, “moral”, if moral is defined as being compassionate towards other humans. This is the surprising finding of Ma-Kellams and Blascovich [1], who questioned college students to see how repugnant date rape was to 81 students, how many pro-social activities 32 students were planning, and how equitably 43 students would share 5 dollars.

They found that students of science-related subjects were more likely to rate (on a scale of 1-10) date rape as ‘wrong’ (p = 0.01); surprisingly, there are no correlation with religiosity (p > 0.46). Further, students who solved a jumble puzzle of words related to science just before rating the ‘wrong-ness’ of date rape also showed a higher degree of condemnation compared to students who had solved jumbles of words not related to science (p < 0.001).

In addition, more students said their plans for the upcoming month included prosocial activities (such as volunteering and donating money or blood) if they had just solved the science-related jumble (p = 0.024). Solving the science-words jumble also made students more likely to share a part of a hypothetical amount of 5 dollars with an unknown person (p = 0.046).

While one might take issue with the small sample size, there is no doubt that the study challenges us to view science as something more than the basis of technology or a key to high-paying jobs. Incorporating science into our thought processes may make us a more than just a bit more just!

 [1] Ma-Kellams C, Blascovich J (2013) Does “Science” Make You Moral? The Effects of Priming Science on Moral Judgments and Behavior. PLoS ONE 8(3): e57989. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057989

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