Cute Overload: Child Power Can Lead to Adult Ethical Behavior

By Desai, Sreedhari | Public Management, July 2012 | Go to article overview

Cute Overload: Child Power Can Lead to Adult Ethical Behavior


Desai, Sreedhari, Public Management


Human resources managers rue the fact that employees spend so much time ogling daily cuteness.com and similar websites. But can those very sites be a key to promoting ethical behavior?

Bizarre as this idea may seem at first glance, my research collaborator, Francesca Gino, and I performed experiments to examine whether cute, childlike things such as animation videos and stuffed toys can bring about good behavior. Across several cultures, people have linked childhood to a state of innocence and moral purity. We reasoned that, if objects related to childhood can activate thoughts about purity, people might behave more ethically in the presence of music or colorful paint.

Think about it: people often check their behavior in the presence of children. They are less likely to swear and more likely to buy cookies to save the world. The twist in our studies comes from the fact that we used objects that hint at the idea of a child, and not real children; yet we found the same results.

In one experiment, people who watched an animated nursery rhyme cheated less on math puzzles than those in the control group. In another experiment, people who participated in a "product evaluation study" of a soft toy were less likely to deceive opponents in a deception game than those who evaluated a stylish paper clip.

Why Focus on Children?

So, why do people behave better in the presence of things that remind them of children? Our society has conditioned us to associate children with innocence. Look at how children are portrayed in literature and the fine arts.

Poets like William Blake and artists like William-Adolphe Bouguereau have used the construct of a child to symbolize moral purity and goodness. Movie companies have made millions by casting children in movies around the theme of innocent childhood.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The association between children and moral purity is quite strong. We found that when subjects played with a soft toy or drew with colored markers they were more likely to create moral words on word-completion tasks of the sort where an incomplete word such as V_RT_ _ can be completed as VIRTUE or VORTEX.

The effect of child-related cues may possibly be more deeply ingrained than just social conditioning. Primatologists have shown that certain kinds of primates, such as the Barbary macaques, often borrow an infant from its mother in order to use it to prompt positive social interaction with others, resulting in more grooming and friendly behavior in the group.

Likewise, neuroscientists have shown that viewing images of babies, puppies, and kittens releases the "moral hormone," oxytocin, which is a key biochemical associated with feelings of sympathy.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Cute Overload: Child Power Can Lead to Adult Ethical Behavior
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.