Ethical Amnesia is apparently a condition that affects people who cheat, or display a morally questionable behavior. According to the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” magazine, a team of researchers studied a sample of over 2,100 people and discovered that ethical amnesia is a real condition triggered by the negative deeds of an individual.
The researchers that conducted the experiment divided the broad sample of participants into nine groups. All of them were given slightly different variations of three main tests and then were recalled in a couple of weeks in order to see what they remembered.
One of the three core tests involved a coin-tossing game. The rules were explained to the participants and then they were asked to play it. The trick was that the volunteers were under the impression that nobody would notice if they cheated, in consequence, almost half of them fabricated the results of the coin toss.
After roughly two weeks from the experiment, the individuals that were involved in that particular test were asked to come back and explain the rules of the game they played. Those who cheated suffered from ethical amnesia as they recalled fewer details than those who obeyed the rules.
Another group of individuals was asked to write negative, positive, unethical, moral, and neutral incidents from their past. After the stories had been written down, the participants were invited to rate the occurrences according to the way in which they remembered them, from fuzzy to excellent.
A smaller sample of volunteers was divided into two subgroups. The first was invited to read a story about cheating that was written in the first person. The second read the same narrative; only it was written in an objective, third-person manner.
After a few weeks had passed, the two groups were asked to write down the things that they remembered from the story. The first recounted it almost in its entirety while the latter only remembered a few main ideas.
According to the study, the term of ethical amnesia is used to:
“highlight an important consequence of dishonesty: obfuscation of one’s memory over time because of the psychological distress and discomfort created by unethical actions.”
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