My behavioral economics theory thesis using only the ten hundred most common words (inspired by XKCD, who else?). This was surprisingly easy to do, I suppose since economics studies what people do and the most common things we talk about are also what people do... Nonetheless, circumlocutions abound. (By the way, after typing in babyspeak for awhile, it is dangerously satisfying to type 'circumlocutions abound'...) I suspect it'd actually be much easier to understand if I could just say "social image".
We humans do things that we don't want to do sometimes. Often this is because everyone agrees that we should act in one way in a given situation, even when we might want to act another way. We agree that doing the wrong thing is bad, so we feel bad inside if we do it. Also, we don't want other people to look down on us for doing a bad thing. If a lot of people can see what we're doing, we especially don't want to do something bad, because we don't want everyone to look down on us. Because of this, one way to make people do the right thing is to make sure that everyone else is carefully watching what they do and looking down on them when they do something bad.
But sometimes people don't agree on what is the right thing to do. Some people will think that one thing is right, and other people will think that another thing is right. Then what are we supposed to do to avoid having other people look down on us? It isn't clear whether having people look down on someone will still work to make them stick to what they really believe is the right thing when people don't agree on what the right thing is. That is the question I am answering.
I found out that if we want to be seen as always sticking to what we believe is right, even if everyone else thinks something else is right, we will more often do what we think is right when we are being watched by other people. But, if we want other people to agree that what we are doing is right, we will more often follow the crowd. Sometimes the crowd believes in something that is good for the world, so this is good. But sometimes the crowd believes in something that isn't always good, so we might do bad things in order to avoid being looked down on.
I also found out that sometimes we might do bad things even if we only want to be seen as always sticking to what we believe in. This can happen if there is a group of people who are very good at always sticking to what they believe in and they all agree on what is right. Then, even if most people don't agree with them, we can be seen as sticking to what we believe if we follow them. If they happen to believe in something that is bad for the world, we might do something bad by following them. But, not very many people will do this. If too many people did this, then everyone would know that they were pretending to believe in the same thing as that group, so people would look down on them again.
I also found out that if we want to be seen as sticking to what we believe in, we can't agree on a middle ground very well. But if we only want other people to think that we are doing the right thing, even if we have to break our own ideas of what is right in order to do what everyone else thinks is right, then we can agree on a middle ground. If one group would look down on us a lot if we did what another group thinks is right, and that other group would look down on us a lot if we did what the first group thinks is right, then we might want to follow the middle ground instead of either of doing something that anyone thinks is right.
I also found out that if people have to decide ahead of time what they think is right, then people will always agree on what is right. Sometimes, they might agree on something that is bad for the world, though. One way to make sure this doesn't happen is to make sure that we won't be looked down on too much for doing something else.
All in all, I found that people don't act the same when they are afraid of being looked down on. But the thing they are looked down on for matters. If we want people to do the right thing and for people to agree on things that are good for the world, we have to figure out which way people want to be seen in the real world.