Here’s just one of many exam­ples from an exper­i­ment at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity: Sub­jects were told they should flip a coin to see who should do cer­tain tasks. One task is long and labo­rious; the other is short and fun.

The par­tic­i­pant flips the coin in pri­vate (though secretly watched by video cam­eras), said David DeSteno, a pro­fessor of psy­chology at North­eastern who con­ducted the exper­i­ment. Only 10 per­cent of them did it hon­estly. The others didn’t flip at all, or kept flip­ping until the coin came up the way they wanted.

Trying to become more eth­ical — or teaching people how to — would seem doomed then. But that’s not true. It’s just that how we teach ethics has to catch up with what we know about how the human mind works.

Read the article at The New York Times →