Excerpt from a new Nature article by Adam M. Mastroianni and Daniel T. Gilbert:
Anecdotal evidence indicates that people believe morality is on the decline. In a series of studies using both archival and original data (not= 12,492,983), we show that people in at least 60 countries around the world believe that morality is declining, that they have believed in it for at least 70 years, and that they attribute the decline to both declining morality of individuals as they age and to the decreasing morality of successive generations. Next, we show that people’s reports of the morality of their contemporaries have not declined over time, suggesting that the perception of moral decline is an illusion. Finally, we show how a simple mechanism based on two well-established psychological phenomena (biased exposure to information and biased memory for information) can produce an illusion of moral decline, and we report studies that confirm two of its predictions about when the perception of moral decline is lessened, eliminated, or reversed (i.e. when respondents are asked about the morality of people they know well or people who lived before the birth of the respondent). Together, our studies show that the perception of moral decline is pervasive, enduring, unfounded, and easily produced. This illusion has implications for research on the misallocation of scarce resources, underutilization of social support, and social influence.
Here is the full paper, thanks to whoever sent this to me. You’re no worse than the people who sent me stuff (at least I hope).