Are you a good or bad person? Apply the shopping trolley theory and find out!

4chan has taken it upon themselves to judge the good from the bad in our society. Sadly, the shopping trolley theory is entirely reasonable.

 

 

How can we test whether someone is a good person or not? A theory of sorts is doing the rounds on Twitter currently, and it likely does the job better than any psychology test.

The theory originated from an unlikely source for a morality test (alas, 4chan) but has gained real traction since being shared on Twitter by Jared from Atlanta. It did not take long for the tweet to reach over a half a million likes and spark a decent discourse on the matter.

The theory proposes is premised upon the fact that returning your shopping cart to a bay is an easy task but is also the appropriate thing to do. It follows that one’s moral character can be determined by the simple act of deciding, or not, to return their shopping cart to a bay. The statement is simple, but the rationale travels deep.

Most people participating in the comment threads agree that returning the shopping cart is the correct thing to do and that refusing to do so pretty much renders you as a bad person.

One such expert, psychotherapist and counsellor Tati Silva, has validated the theory and makes some valid points. “It goes back to character and personality, both used to describe someone’s behaviour,” Silva told Bored Panda. “As for one’s character like honesty, virtue, and kindliness, they are revealed over time, through various situations.”

“Character is heavily influenced by the different situations we engage in. Therefore, if you choose not to take the shopping cart back it will expose your character,” Silva explained. “Since there is no law that prohibits the action or says that it is wrong, the behaviour will continue. The individual needs to determine what is right or wrong, good or bad because — again — there aren’t any social norms or rules that specify this behaviour might be considered inappropriate.”

Silva believes that the underlying reasoning behind the shopping cart theory can be expanded to other behaviours too, such as not laughing when someone falls, or not holding the door for others. “One might do it without being aware of it because it is engraved in their habit. However, that can be changed by expanding self-awareness. It is likely the first step in gaining control over any behaviour you wish to change.”

This theory is not too dissimilar from the actual moral dilemmas used by researchers to identify psychopathic traits as they can offer deep insights into someone’s judgement. 

 

 

One scenario, developed by philosopher Philippa Foot, has been used for such a task for decades. The ‘Trolley Dilemma’ can be summarised as follows: “A runaway trolley is about to run over and kill five people and you are standing on a footbridge next to a large stranger; your body is too light to stop the train, but if you push the stranger onto the tracks, killing him, you will save the five people. Would you push the man?”

 

 

A 2011 study published in the journal Cognition found that people who answered ‘Yes’ to the above situation scored higher on measures of psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and life meaninglessness compared to those who chose not to push the innocent man.

It is not much of a stretch to think this famous dilemma inspired the shopping cart theory.

 

 

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