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Our Sense Of Morality Changes As We Age

Does our response to moral-laden situations change as we get older?

Yes, says a new University of Chicago/ National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences study.

The researchers asked 127 people between the ages of four and 36 to watch nearly 100 video clips that showed intentional actions (for example, someone getting shoved) as well as accidental actions (for example, a golfer hitting someone mistakenly with a club). They also viewed inanimate objects getting damaged (for example, a teapot getting dropped).

What did the researchers learn? The younger we are, the more likely we are to see others' actions as always malicious, whether these actions happen to people or objects. But the older we get, the more we distinguish between people and objects and tend to excuse the damage done to objects as a simple accident.

This study could tell us something about the workplace, where it's not hard to picture a 40-year-old old timer telling his 23-year-old co-worker to chillax because it's not worth crying over spilled milk as this young co-worker continues to stew in a steaming broth of moral outrage. Geez, don't get all bent out of shape because no one did it intentionally, dude! It's not a big deal, just let it go. It. Was. An. Accident.

Before we know it, we're all outraged by the outrage. Or something like that.

If you've ever found yourself stuck in this conversation loop with a junior partner who just can't seem to let something rather inconsequential go, you now have the research to back you up.


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