DOING IS BELIEVING
REMEMBER TRAP 17, “Enacting a Role”? Students put on the role of prison guards and after six days in a realistic prison setting began to “disparage” the prisoners (other students) and devise “cruel and degrading routines.” Often what we do is what we become. Frequently, we observe our own behavior (what we do or say). In so doing, we influence our attitudes (negative or positive feelings about our action). Social psychologist David Myers writes, “Hearing myself talk informs me of my attitudes; seeing my actions provides clues to how strong my beliefs are.”1
When coauthor Dr. Hoyk was in graduate school, his professor of social psychology, Dr. Dalenberg, told his class that early in her career, she had considered walking up and down the aisles of the classroom during exams to catch students cheating. She ultimately decided not to do this. Why? She knew that after a while, her behavior would shape her attitudes—she would probably become—to some degree—more suspicious of her students.
Eric Storch at Columbia University administered a questionnaire to 244 students. Answering the questionnaire anonymously, the college students were asked how often they had copied other student’s work, plagiarized, and cheated on exams. The questionnaire also asked the students to rate their approval on a scale of 1 to 5 (“strongly disapprove” to “strongly approve”) of these three transgressions.