I recently Tweeted a study revealing that personal interaction has more influence over moral behavior than does culture. I read that attractive women tend to earn more, and the grossly obese much less. Ugly people commit more crime, possibly due to lower self-esteem and deficient social skills. [“For Crime, is Anatomy Destiny?” NY Times, 11 May 2010]. On this same theme of how people view others and themselves, op-ed columnist David Brooks described recently the evolution of the U.S. Military from being the largest, fastest, most accurate and powerful to something a little different. Now, increased emphasis is placed on influencing hearts and minds; the theory being that we cannot “win” if indigenous people hate us.
Targeted advertising influences the perception of shoppers one at a time; and as individuals, we try to keep up with neighbors while simultaneously praising whatever brand of product we happen to own. More often than not, we share the political, ethnic and religious heritage of our parents and our neighborhood. In other words in moral behavior and life preferences, we are the antithesis of the late Salvador Dali, for whom deviance was the norm. Most of us derive our conduct and social acceptance from models close by.