How Can We Get More Virtue and Less ‘Virtue Signaling’? (NSQ Ep. 17)
Also: is it better to be a thinker, a doer, or a charmer?
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Relevant Research & References
Question #1: What’s the problem with virtue signaling?
- Stephen describes an Australian hand hygiene study that took place at a children’s hospital. The study, “Teaching Hospital Medical Staff to Handwash,” was led by physician James Tibballs and published in the Medical Journal of Australia in 1996.
- Angela recalls a conversation she had with her University of Pennsylvania colleague Adam Grant about ranking world issues. Angela rehashes other conversations (and arguments) she’s had with Grant in past NSQ episodes: Ep. 7, “How Do You Handle Criticism?;” Ep. 11, “Are Ambitious People Inherently Selfish?;” and Ep. 15, “How Much of Your Life Do You Actually Control?”
- Angela shares a comedic illustration of virtue signaling from Ben Franklin’s autobiography. You can read the story, and access Franklin’s full autobiography, at the Independence Hall Association’s “Electric Ben Franklin” site.
- Stephen references Jewish scholar Maimonidies’s famous list of charitable priorities — including anonymity in charitable giving. Maimonidies’s full list maps out eight levels of giving, each more significant than the preceding tier.
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Question #2: Are you a thinker, a doer, or a charmer?
- Angela shares that her father greatly admired Edgar S. Woolard, the former C.E.O. of American chemical company Dupont.
- Angela references this 1957 study on productivity outliers by physicist William Shockley. It should be noted that later in his career, Shockley supported racist genetic practices like eugenics. To learn more about Shockley’s personal history, we recommend checking out this 2017 piece from Wired.
- Angela says modern psychological research concludes that “thinkers” tend to be less likely to be “doers.” She was referencing the work of University of Maryland psychologist Arie Kruglanski.
- Stephen mentions theoretical physicist Richard Feynman’s assertion that knowing the name of something is useless if you don’t know how it actually works. To learn more about Feynman, we recommend reading James Gleick’s Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman.