It is commonly thought that people who behave in a virtuous manner ultimately continue on the straight and narrow path, making the world a better and more moral place. They are the ones who will save the earth, save the children and possibly the whales. But it turns out, virtuous behavior can merely be a precursor to a vice filled life – though not necessarily in a bad way. Whether shopping for healthy foods, forgoing plastic bags in favor of bring-your-own or contributing to charity, good behavior can ultimately lead to bad. Perhaps virtuous behavior doesn’t come from totally virtuous individuals but rather from people who upon doing something good, feel justified in engaging in some less than stellar conduct. It could be said that there is vicious virtue and vice circle where one leads to the other and possibly back again – though not all vice need originate with virtue.
Research in human behavior has shown that, “single, small acts of virtuous behavior actually predispose us to behave worse.” People who bought one item that was considered to be a healthy or diet food would then splurge on “vice items,” say, a decadent dessert. After performing charitable acts, people were more likely to buy luxury items such as designer clothing rather than practical items such as oven cleaner. All of which could be good news for those who plan marketing strategies. Place diet sodas next to desserts and bundle luxurious goods with some form of charitable contribution. The term for this is the “licensing effect.” Doing something virtuous gives a person license to cheat. In which case angels falling may not be an oxymoron, but a way of life.
- New Media
- How To