We're kind to strangers- but friends are fair game

SIENA YATES
Last updated 05:00 17/11/2012

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When it comes to morals, people tend to oppose inconveniencing strangers. But we don't care about lying to our friends, and care even less about talking about them behind their backs.

A survey of nearly 1500 Waikato Times online readers tested how moral they considered themselves, asking 18 questions on issues including stealing, lying, breakups and confessions.

The results showed the golden rule "do unto others" applied in almost every situation, except when it came to friends.

A little under half of respondents were content to pull out the old "I'm washing my hair", or another excuse to avoid going out with friends, and 73 per cent admitted to talking about their friends behind their backs.

Strangely, the same amount of people wouldn't dream of throwing litter out of the car window (73 per cent), and even more (83 per cent) would never park in a disabled car park or push into a queue (60 per cent).

University of Waikato morals and ethics expert Carolyn Costley said being good was not about following fixed rules all the time, but about respect.

"For some questions my answer was ‘it depends'," she said. "Maybe we're saying nice things about our friends behind their backs. Whether or not I'd pick up the dog poo would depend on where it is - in someone's nice garden? Yes. In a public park? Yes. Along a country road? No."

Ms Costley said morally it was important to care about other people and also consider what they are trying to achieve.

"Empathise a little, listen a lot, consider what will be good for other people as well as yourself," she said.

The Times survey found that while a fair amount of people needed to "take a good hard look" at themselves, most people's overall results landed between 56 per cent and 82 per cent, which showed they were "doing OK".

Only 95 people scored below the "horrible" mark.

They may have been among the measly 6 per cent who admitted they would not return a lost wallet, or at least not with the money inside it.

While most were against that one, the majority (65 per cent) were oddly all for stealing from bars or restaurants. Go figure.

There was no real pattern to what people deemed acceptable. The grey area seemed to lie largely in money matters.

It was a close call whether, should a company forget to send a bill or a cashier give too much change or undercharge, people would say anything or just take the money and run, with a 53:47 per cent split.

If nothing else, those surveyed were honest, doing the right thing most of the time and coming clean for the rest of it.

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All that is left is for us to treat our friends as well as our neighbours.

Click here to take the test.

- Waikato Times

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