Experiments conducted by Program on Negotiation faculty member Francesca Gino and her colleague Sreedhari Desai suggest that remembering childhood memories may cause a person to behave in a more ethical manner.
The research, recently published in the Journal of Personality and Psychology, used a set of experiments in which participants could assist the experimenter with a task, judge the ethicality of a certain behavior, or donate money to charity.
When memories of childhood were recalled, participants were more likely to help, judged unethical behavior harshly, and displayed increased tendencies towards generosity.
This effect was the same whether the participant had a pleasant or unpleasant childhood experience. The research suggests that recollecting childhood memories stimulates a heightened sense of “moral purity” or, “a frame of mind that effects behavior.”
The main impact of this research is in demonstrating the importance of mental cues in decision-making, or as Francesca Gino says: “It’s promising research in thinking about ways in which people are following their moral compass with very simple interventions.”
Adapted from Scientific American, “Do Childhood Memories Serve as a Moral Compass?” by Jessica Gross.
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