Out of Character
Surprising Truths About the Liar, Cheat, Sinner (and Saint) Lurking in All of Us.
David DeSteni and Piercarlo Valdesolo have something to say about who you are and why you are like you are and who lots of others are why they are like they are. Along your way through their book, the authors hope to define “character” in a way we can understand it in our real worlds.
Their goal is heady and meaty: to teach how the social mind and your character work, to shed light on why you do what you do, and most importantly, help you get better control over yourself.
How about trying on for size the authors’ premise that what you think is right at any given time is relative? Hmmmm. They show the elasticity of our ethics and morals under seductive circumstances where our emotions trump our rational minds.
Learn how cognitive flexibility plays a role in whether at any given moment, you choose to be a saint or a sinner. Learn that your character easily fluctuates, refuses to stay static, and gets out of its balance or out of character. The authors say saint or sinner describes us at different times and that future-oriented ant and instant gratification grasshopper are more realistic, psychologically global character metaphors.
You probably know all the vices: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. The virtues of chastity, patience, kindness, diligence, temperance, charity, and humility most of us strive for all our lives, or not, depending.
Many of you of a certain age will remember the marshmallow test of the 1960s created by Psychologist, Walter Mischel. New learning for me included how intertemporal choice and temporal discounting play into our decision-making.
Believe me, the studies are fascinating and, except for the marshmallow dilemma, I found them unique. Curious about what makes Miss Right or Mr. Right go wrong? They expound on the falls of Eliott Spitzer and Tiger Woods. Again and again, you get to see how emotional instinct and impulses can derail moral reasoning.
Look at some advice for gaining better control:
- When making a moral decision, pause long enough to gauge your inner voice for whispers of guilt, shame, or any type of unease.
- Be aware of factors, such as anger, that can influence your emotions.
- Understand that character is flexible and that out-of-character actions are normal.
Definitely work the read. Of course, you don’t have to read all the experiments. I didn’t.