Give people a chance to cleanse themselves after reminding them of some immoral action, and you reduce their altruistic drive. Score one for the Protestant side in the controversy over auricular confession. But what about the tendency to do something else that’s bad?
Apparently hand-washing substitutes for altruistic action in soothing the pangs of guilt. That would seem to weigh on the Protestant side of the debate over auricular confession. But I’d like to see someone do the other half of the experiment: presented with a minor temptation, are those who have cleansed themselves more or less likely to take it? My bet would be on “less likely.”
Author: Mark Kleiman
Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out.
Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken)
When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist
Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993)
Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989)
View all posts by Mark Kleiman