Philosophy classes can affect real-world behavior, study finds | 5/22/2013 | Staff
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College philosophy classes may open your mind to new ways of thinking. But can they really affect how you behave?

The answer is yes, according to a new study.

Environment - People - Thinking - Changes - Brad

"In the current environment where people are not reasoning so well, it is heartening to learn that rational thinking changes behavior," said Brad Cokelet, assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Kansas.

Cokelet teamed with professors Eric Schwitzgebel, University of California, Riverside, and Peter Singer, Princeton University, for a study titled "Ethics Classes Can Influence Student Behavior." They'll present their findings July 11 at the Society for Philosophy and Psychology conference in San Diego.

Lot - Psychologists - Results - Us—most - Time—make

"A lot of psychologists have produced results saying most of us—most of the time—make our decisions based on emotion or gut instinct. Then after the fact, we rationalize what we've done. So reason is not in the driver's seat. This is evidence reason can be in the driver's seat for some people," Cokelet said.

For the study, nearly 1,200 students at UC-Riverside read a philosophical article defending vegetarianism, followed by a group discussion and optional video. The control group looked at similar materials on charitable giving.

Students - Questionnaire - Opinions - Issues - Target

Later, students received a questionnaire asking to rank their opinions on moral issues, including the target question: "Eating the meat of factory farmed animals is unethical." Then campus dining card purchases were scrutinized. In the meat ethics group, meat purchases declined by 11 percent, while in the control group, purchases did not change.

"A lot of students reached the conclusion that whatever they're doing now is morally bad to some degree. Previously, they didn't think about what's going on in the production of their meat," he said.

Cokelet—who - Vegetarian—was

Cokelet—who is not a vegetarian—was initially skeptical at what he might find.

"I thought, "This could just be like two kids became vegetarians and nobody else did." Turns out a significant group...
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