Sunday, January 29, 2012

Morality Pill

When faced with the option, would you jeopardize your safety to help a complete stranger in need? Researchers like Stanley Milgram, Philip Zimbardo, John Darley, and C. Daniel Batson have researched humans potential, or pre-disposition, for good and evil. Say that there are biochemical differences in the brains of those who help others and those who don't, could this notion pave the way for a "Morality pill"?- a drug that makes one more likely to assist others. What might a society do with this pill? Could they make it mandatory in certain circumstances?

I chose this article because I find it very thought provoking. The issue of forced behavior or thought patterns is very controversial. The concept of this pill is revolutionary, so there are no pre-determined guidelines as to when and why to implement it. Sending a man to jail is one thing, but changing his brain to act in a way he doesn't wish is a whole different issue.

The opening paragraph about the girl in the street was very graphic and instantly captured my attention. I thought it was a good example of the potential for evil in humans. I would have liked a specific example of a human committing a selfless act to save another to create a sharp contrast of human behavior. I think the author's writing style was very simple and not particularly captivating, but the questions he asks are what made the story interesting for me.

Here is the link to the story:


  1. When I first read this article it instantly reminded me of the short story "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut. I don't know if any of you are familiar with it, but it tells the story of a society that believes that everyone should be equal. Society punishes those that are are above average intelligence by forcing them to wear a radio to interrupt their thoughts so that they think on an average intelligence level. Society is controlling how people live in this short story...

    While forcing everyone to be 'more likely to help' may save lives.. we are going against our natural make up..Are we supposed to be able to control everything?

    I guess my strong opinion against it may just come from what my background and what I've grown up knowing.

    On the other hand, anti depressant pills also alter the brain chemistry and society has accepted this idea. Maybe something like this will just take time to adjust to.

    On the story construction, the lead was a great way to pull the reader in. If the story had started off just talking about a new study I do not believe it would have gotten the same human interest pull. This article definitely got me thinking!

  2. I thought that this article raised a very good debatable topic that has had human interest for years. However, the headline was misleading for me about what the article was really about. I was expecting a researched article about the scientific advancements coming to create this "morality pill" and the possible consequences of taking it. But instead the article was more about common morality rather than scientific research, which I liked, but I thought there could have been a better headline.

    Overall I thought this was a very entertaining and compelling article to read and definitely did not make me bored at any point. I thought this was a very appropriate topic to stray away from the inverted pyramid and I liked how the author strung together different stories about strangers helping others in order to back up the thesis.

    Personally I don't think humans should have the power to decide who is good and evil. I think that there comes a point where science should stop intervening and our natural personalities should take over, whether that is a product of our genes or our environment. Like A Clockwork Orange, there have been many futuristic books written about the dangers of taking science too far and I think this is definitely one of those cases.

  3. This story was definitely intriguing. I'm glad the writer made a reference to "A Clockwork Orange," because that's what immediately came to mind when I saw this was an article about a possible morality pill.

    The length of the article was decent. The introduction really captured my attention and I gasped when I read that the little girl was ran over by more than one van. It upset and shocked me when I read that over a dozen people walked by and no one stopped to help her until another van ran over her. I guess people certainly need a boost in morals, but I'm not sure if a pill is the right way to do it. I agree that it is science gone way too far.

    The article mentioned the possibility of giving the pill to criminals as an alternative to prison. If that were ever to happen, I would be scared, because what if the criminals relapsed? The idea of a morality pill is way too frightening and intense.

  4. I agree with Sam in the fact that this article was very thought provoking tying in free will and morality with our society today, however, I didn't find it as newsworthy as the other pieces. It seems far-fetched in my mind to have a type of morality pill that can physically alter a person's action in order for them to act more consciously.

    The beginning did a good job at capturing the reader's attention by dramatically stating the event with the little girl and the unfazed passing people. I would have also liked to have seen some more examples of acting morally and potential acceptable behavior if a pill were established. The author could have tied it in with the article nicely because of the topic she was already on.

  5. I found this article to be very interesting and thought provoking. I thought that the introduction of the article was well done. It really pulled me in and applied the shock factor that this story needed to attract a reader. I also though that the article was a good length.

    The idea of a pill to change human actions is something that will cause debate for years and years to come. Personally, I don't think that we should mess with how humans are designed. I think that the world will never come to a decision on this topic. Although, the though of it is very interesting.

  6. I thought this article was very interesting and raises a lot of reasonable questions about morality and society. I liked the way the story was written, especially the beginning paragraph about the little girl who was ran over. (Although I did wonder, why couldn't whoever was recording put down the video and save her!?)

    Overall, I don't think a morality pill would benefit society. There are many ways this could backfire or fail, ultimately harming the greater good of society instead of improving it. It is hard to say who would actually take the pills, and it would be nearly impossible to force prisoners to take this and be positive it was taken everyday.

    The article is definitely something to think about though, and was a very interesting read. I enjoyed this one a lot.

  7. The beginning of this article ripped my heart out. And I don't see why this pill would have any kind of debate, but maybe I think that because I am the kind of person to stop what I am doing and help a stranger in distress.

    You're telling me that the two people who ran over that little girl and the countless others who strolled right by her are sane? No, they are evil human beings. Call me harsh I really don't care. Those people need a double dose if such a "morality pill" should be developed.

    Why wouldn't you want more people like the one lady who stopped to pick up that poor little girl laying helplessly in the middle of the road.

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  9. A morality pill would completely upend society. As a journalist I love conflict, and with morality, do you think that conflict would be pushed to the wayside. Sure, if the big shot on wall street took a morality pill before they jeopardized the banking system we wouldn't be in a downward economic spiral. Bush W. probably would not have gone to war with Iraq. Casey Anthony wouldn't have killed her child.

    This science leads to a lot of "what ifs" and I do not think I like them. Conflict breeds problems and if humans have proven one thing through our evolution, it is that we are problem solvers.

    As for it being used to change the habits of criminals, there are nearly 2.3 million prisoners in the United States. Of those 2.3 million, 3/4ths of new admissions to state prisons are for non-violent offenses. These are people that just made one bad mistake, more than likely they will not repeat it once they realize that they don't want to go back to an overcrowded prison.

    Plus, I don't like the idea of people being mindless drones.
    (Or are we already?)

  10. As intriguing as this topic is, I feel the small possibility of a “morality pill” becoming a reality is used in this article as an excuse (or news peg, I guess) to discuss altruism and morality in general. Scientific research is mentioned and referenced but none of it seems new; the bystander affect is taught in high school psychology classes and like the author states, this isn’t a new topic.

    I guess what I’m saying is that it’s not like scientists are currently working towards producing a “morality pill.” Because they’re not I don’t find it newsworthy to bring the discussion to the table. I find the illustration of the packaged morality pill to be misleading; not only is this pill not being developed, it certainly isn’t close to being approved and prescribed as the illustration suggests.

    I feel this piece relies on sensationalism and buzz-words to attract interest. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a totally intriguing topic. I just don’t see it as especially relevant in this context.

  11. I enjoyed this article. I felt the writer did a nice job of explaining the topic. He used many different examples which made the piece readable and believable. He used the scientists and their studies with rats, along with a girl in China who has been run over and a move, "A Clockwork Orange." The story was well written. The writer explains everything; he doesn't expect you to know what he is talking about.

    The only to things that could make this article better would be, first, using quotes. There are no quotes throughout the whole article. It needed some voices to give the story some versatility. Also, the paragraphs get to be a bit long. I wish the writer broke up the writing into more paragraphs.

    I'm not sure how I feel about the idea of a "mortality pill". It seems like a good alternative for criminals but for regular citizens, I don't see someone spending the extra money to make them feel "more helpful" to other people.

  12. Good article. I thought the questions posed were relevant and thought provoking. I do have one qualm with the opening, though.

    I think the writer neglected to mention the bystander effect, and this is important to understanding why someone would not stop to help this girl. Yes, the person driving the car should have stopped--and maybe they didn't realize what they had done, maybe they thought it was a bump in the road, I don't know. But in regard to those walking by, there is much psychological research to show that people, put in a circumstance where someone is in need, will do nothing under the assumption that others will, or have already, helped. We saw the same situation with Kitty Genovese, a woman who was brutally raped on an open street. It was night, but there were streetlamps and she was clearly visible. Many opened their windows to see what was happening. After being raped once, she was left there, cut up in knife marks, wailing and screaming for help. No one did anything. Later, the rapist returned, raped her one more time, stabbed her again and again, and left. She screamed and crawled to the curb. Then she died. No one called the police, and many said later that it was because they thought others had done so. Or that they weren't the ones to help in the situation.

    I guess I'm missing the point of his article. I know I wouldn't be a fan of any morality pill--it's too dystopian. But I just wanted to comment on the opening, and something the writer may not have mentioned.