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Are You Really a Nice Person?

Written by Jennifer Strailey

Ever wonder where you rate on the scale of nice to nasty, especially when it comes to your peers?

Researchers at Cornell University conducted studies to get to the bottom of the "holier than thou attitude" many of us proudly sport. If we all really were nicer than the next guy, would we get cut off in traffic as often as we do?

The question is: Do people feel holier than thou because they don't see their blind spots and overestimate their own goodness or because they underestimate the goodness of others? Researchers wanted to know.

Study participants were asked how they and their peers would behave when faced with different moral dilemmas. People routinely said they would be more generous and kind than others. But, when put to the test, most failed to be so friendly.

The study asked participants about charitable donations.  People said they would donate more, but when given the chance, donated less. The study also asked participants what they would do if given the choice between completing a difficult task on their own or sloughing it off on a 10-year-old kid. While most said they would do it themselves, when the time came, they had the kid do the dirty work.

Despite our inflated view of ourselves, we are good at predicting how others will behave. Most study participants accurately guessed their peer's response to the moral dilemmas. Apparently, we expect other people to be selfish, just not us.

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