Magazine article Psychology Today

Kind at the Core

Magazine article Psychology Today

Kind at the Core

Article excerpt

WHAT MAKES YOU YOU? Red hair and hazel eyes? An introverted nature? Nothing holds as much weight for others as your sense of right and wrong: We consider moral characteristics more central toa person than memories or standard personality traits, research by psychologist Nina Strohminger and others suggests. Strohminger, an assistant professorat the University of Pennsylvania, explains how the evidence binds morality and identity. -MATTHUSTON

WHY DO YOU ARGUE THAT MORALITY IS MORE IMPORTANT FOR OUR SENSE OF WHO SOMEONE IS THAN. SAY. EXTRAVERSION?

We kept finding that when people act in a way that's inconsistent with their moral character, we're much more willing to relabel what kind of people they are. If someone is generally an extravert and then one day acts like an introvert, we're not like. "Oh. she's actually shy." But if someone is generally very honest and then one day lies to you, it's very easy for you to say, "This person's really a liar."

YOU HAVE ALSO USED REAL-LIFE CASES TO SHOW THAT MORALITY IS A KEYSTONE OF WHO WE SEEM TO BE.

We recruited people with neurodegenerative diseases-Alzheimer's, ALS, and frontotemporal dementia-and collected data for various symptoms. In Alzheimer's patients, for example, the most obvious change is memory loss, but many also experience personality changes, and some of them become nicer or meaner. …

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