Self-Signaling with the Right Choice



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  • Self-Signaling with the Right Choice

    Being a student of psychology, limited mostly to the detail of human behavior, I found one study specifically important, where it reveals the human nature.

    Many of us think we make choices because of who we are. Acting the way they do because of their personality traits and attitudes, right? But the reverse is also true — we are who we are, in part, because of the choices we make. Below, I am referring to that specific detail.

    Our actions, also affect how we see ourselves. If we return a lost wallet, there’s an measurable movement up on our integrity scale. A large part of well-being is how we perceive ourselves and the world around us. If my actions change how I see myself then, how I act can have tremendous effects on my quality of life. Actions can literally change who we are.

    Psychologist Dan Ariely introduces what social scientists call “self-signaling”:

    The basic idea behind self-signaling is that despite what we tend to think, we don’t have a very clear notion of who we are. We generally believe that we have a privileged view of our own preferences and character. Instead, we observe ourselves in the same way we observe and judge the actions of other people — inferring who we are and what we like from our actions.
    Although introspection is a powerful tool set, it seems most of us are just not very good at it. There was a test that asked people carry around an illegal counterfeit Prada bag. The people holding counterfeit bags actually cheated more. Once we knowingly become engage with a disreputable encounter, moral constraints loosen to some degree, making it easier for us to take further steps down the path of dishonesty. This reasoning aided by the feeling that we are dishonest actually makes us do more dishonest things in the future.

    "Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." James 1:15

    There’s more that came from these studies. Take enough steps in the wrong direction, and (as all of us have done before), we shrug our shoulders and say, “oh well, what's it matter?” People stop caring at all and chose to rationalize choices. For many people there was a very sharp transition where at some point in the experiment, they suddenly graduated from engaging in a little bit of cheating to cheating at every single opportunity they had. Once we start violating our own standards, we are much more likely to abandon further attempts to control our behavior. From that point on there is a good chance that we will succumb to the temptation to pursue other acts of inordinance.

    Now, the good news. It works the other way. A single dishonest action might make us more dishonest, but a single positive action can make us better too. It can be perceived as moral momentum, either for better or for worse. We all have residing in use both light and darkness. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are. We don't get to chose what is true. We only get to choose what we do about it. In any moment of decision, the best thing we can do is the right thing. The choices we make now, the people you surround yourself with, they all have the potential to affect your life, even who you are, forever.

    "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10

  • #2
    Very interesting! I read about this study -- -- shortly after it was released (in 2014). It suggests that positive interaction with others increases our altruistic instincts. Biblically, this would support Jesus' assertations:

    "And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise." (Lk. 6:31)

    "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." (Mt. 5:44b, 45)

    In following in Christ's footsteps, showing kindness and mercy in a cruel world, we may be helping to increase others' altruistic instincts (according to the assertions of the Stanford study), which (according to your study) may help them to make make better choices, as regards issues of integrity.

    While good works don't save us, in and of themselves, I believe that they CAN help to soften our hearts -- to remove the stony detritus that builds up around it -- which can make us more receptive to Christ's call. So following Christ's commands in Lk. 6:31 and Mr. 5:44, 45, I believe, can help in His transformative work.


    • #3
      This post and comments are very inspiring! Thank you for sharing!


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