How evil spreads.

The moral judgment that allows us to judge others resides in a specific region of our brain. And as recent research by Neuroscientists from the MIT led by Rebecca Saxonit is enough to disturb that part of the brain so that people have a different or more lax moral judgment.

Previous studies had shown that the brain region known for temporal parietal junction (either TJP in its English acronym) was strongly activated when we think about the intentions of others, their thoughts or beliefs, which is the way we have to deduce if the other person is acting well or badly (for example, that person has just attacked another: has it been to defend himself, has it been out of hatred, has it been by mistake, etc.?).

In this new investigation they temporarily disturbed the activity of TJP by inducing a current in the brain, induction that was achieved thanks to the application of a magnetic field from outside the skull. Liane Young affirms the following after knowing the results:

How evil spreads

Morality is usually thought of as part of high-level behavior. To be able, with a magnetic field applied to a specific region of the brain, to change this is truly astounding.

Same as him TJPwhich is located on the surface of the cortex above and behind the right ear, is critical in making moral judgments, revealing that our morality is in part a flimsy hardware construct, our moral acts (and the appraisal they let’s make of them) also depend a lot on the environment in which we are.

How evil spreads

When one questions himself about his morality, he tends to assume that, broadly speaking, he is a good person, just, fair and kind to others. We also tend to focus evil in iconic characters, such as Hitler or Satan. We tend to think: “Hitler was evil, I was not; and the neighbor of the fifth disturbs the neighborhood more than me”.

However, although the degree of kindness differentiates us between us (it is undeniable that there are people who are more selfish, meaner or less empathetic than others), the truth is that most people They swing back and forth between good and evil all the time.And it depends on the circumstances.

How evil spreads

With circumstances I do not want you to think of traumatic childhoods or unfavorable economic environments. A family man can be kind at home, with his family, and heartless in the company he runs. An individual can be aggressive and suspicious in one context for months, and then, by changing the context, drop that attitude in an amazing way in a new context. in a few hours or days.

How does it work the interpersonal spread of criminal behavior it is an illustrative example of how a person can be on one or another moral spectrum. Crime tends to vary greatly in time (it changes from year to year) and in space (it varies between headquarters and adjacent police stations) for reasons that are partly mysterious.

How evil spreads

One of the reasons being emphasized is that criminals tacitly induce others to commit criminal acts. The Economist ed glaser He even carried out a study in which such effects were different depending on the type of crime:

It is much more likely that a person will be incited to steal a car when they see someone else doing it than to rob a house or commit a robbery, and this influence is even less in crimes such as arson or rape. The riskier or more serious the crime, the less likely others are to follow suit (although frenzied murderous behavior can also occur, as in the Rwandan genocide).

Malcolm Gladwell he also analyzes civic behavior from this perspective, with what he calls “broken windows theory”:

How evil spreads

If a window is broken and left unfixed, people passing by will deduce that no one cares about it and no one is bothering to fix it. Soon more windows appear with broken glass, and immediately the affected building transmits a certain sense of anarchy to the whole street, with the slogan that anything goes. The broken windows theory and the power of context theory amount to the same thing. Both are based on the premise that an epidemic process can be reversed just by changing small details of the immediate environment.

Of course, the contagion of kindness occurs in a similar way. Leaving aside that we are born predisposed to altruism and cooperation (at least apparent) and that the moral sense is born of series, the environment can underline or weaken it. For example, in a social environment where good people predominate, there will be less chance of bad people.

Good people have more friends, they have more people around to pay attention to their anecdotes, to their literary, musical or directly aesthetic tastes, to their ideas, in short, and that causes the essence of good people to be reproduced more easily. in others, in the cultural heritage in which we are immersed. Kind people influence and persuade more people in your life.

How evil spreads

On the other hand, bad people, for example those who tend to cheat, cheat or steal, will find that in an environment of good people they could cheat, cheat or steal more easily, yes, but carrying out these activities carries an inherent risk: being caught and expelled from the community. However, you may unconsciously realize that by behaving honestly you can also obtain many benefits without risking expulsion and, above all, reduce the risk that others will opt for deception, fraud or theft.

So if a person presents himself to you as a champion of morality, immediately be suspicious. Similarly, do not be blinded by committing an immoral act to judge the integrity of a person. We all change and adapt in different environments, even on the same dayand that we perceive ourselves as creatures with a consistent and stable moral line is just one of many illusions of our mind.

However, for those of you who harbor the hope that everything depends on the context and social contagion, I will soon present another article where it is suggested As the DNA largely determines our degree of altruism, selfishness and cooperation.

In Genscience | If you surround yourself with criminals, you will end up committing crimes.

How evil spreads