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Why does moral progress feel preachy and annoying?

[Daniel Kelly and Evan Westra in Aeon]

"Many genuinely good arguments for moral change will be initially experienced as annoying. Moreover, the emotional responses that people feel in these situations are not typically produced by psychological processes that are closely tracking argument structure or responding directly to moral reasons."

This is a useful breakdown of why arguments for social progress encounter so much friction, and why the first emotional response may be to roll our eyes. It's all about our norm psychologies - and some people have stronger reactions than others.

As the authors make clear here, people who are already outside of the mainstream culture for one reason or another (immigration, belonging to a minority or vulnerable group, and so on) already feel friction from the prevailing norms being misaligned with their own psychology. If that isn't the case, change is that much harder.

But naming it is at least part of the battle:

"Knowing this fact about yourself should lead you to pause the next time you reflexively roll your eyes upon encountering some new, annoying norm and the changes its advocates are asking you to make. That irritation is not your bullshit detector going off."

Talking about these effects, and understanding their origins, helps everyone better understand their reactions and get to better outcomes. Social change is both necessary and likely to happen regardless of our reactions. It's always better to be a person who celebrates progressive change rather than someone who creates friction in the face of it.


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