If you’re in a hurry, just scroll down to find the Realitan Code below. Otherwise, please read this first:
Scientific research shows us a rather unsurprising fact: people tend to behave better when they are reminded to behave better. Whether it’s a teacher advising elementary kids to “put their thinking caps on” or a researcher telling college-age subjects to “think through all the possibilities before answering”, both are effective at prompting better test scores than those of control groups who are given no such advise.
The same is true when it comes to moral behavior; people behave better when reminded of some manner of moral code. Is it a sure-fire way to end cheating and lying in our society? By no means, yet it obviously makes a substantial difference.
What do you do, however, when most known codes of conduct originated from within religions, and are thus tricky topics for governmental organizations, such as schools? Interestingly, for example, one study showed that reminding students of the Ten Commandments is an effective way to curb cheating, even if they don’t know the Ten Commandments well enough to recite any of them. Such a practice is untenable, however, in the political realm. This is why author Dan Ariely suggested in his book, Predictably Irrational, that someone should write a moral code that will not be patently religious so that it can be used in all manner of institutions.
What follows below is SRBT founder Jack Pelham’s compilation of such a list. It not only takes public behavior into mind, but also addresses personal paradigms and habits, such as thinking. The goal was to make the list succinct and specific, rather than general. Therefore, items of over-arching principle (as excellent as they are) were left off, such as these:
- “Treat others as you would like them to treat you.” (The famous “Golden Rule”, which has appeared often throughout history.)
- “Rise above behaviors that would hurt the world if everyone did them, and promote behaviors that would help the world if everyone did them.” (Jack Pelham’s adaptation of long-standing principles for society-based thinking about personal conduct.)
While such items are most helpful and worthy of understanding, the list below seeks to leave less to the reader to figure out. While the list doesn’t mention terms like “cognitive miser” or “moral miser”, it does prompt the reader to exert him- or herself in the interests of doing good.
THE REALITAN CODE OF CONDUCT
- Care, learn, wonder, and improve—as a way of life.
- Always face reality, even when it is unfavorable.
- Be responsible for your needs, your body, your mind, and your actions.
- Be impeccably honest inside and out; shun everything false.
- Test every idea and assertion, no matter its source. Then test the tests.
- Be responsible in your beliefs; don’t be completely certain about things you cannot prove.
- Get used to being wrong, correcting yourself, and saying “I’m sorry”.
- Solve problems when you can; don’t let them linger.
- Say “I don’t know” as often as it is true; we all need the reminder.
- Rise above exaggeration, lying, cheating, stealing.
- Don’t obsess over what is not real or what is not really yours.
- Do not initiate violence against people or their property, except to defend against such violence.
- Do not encourage others to believe what you cannot demonstrate to be true.
- Be kind, fair, and thankful.
- Have the courage to help, to be helped, to forgive, and to love deeply.