Where do Your Values Come From?
While values form a core part of self-help programmes and a man’s sense of identity, new research is shedding light on whether we really choose our values.
New research offers evidence that criminal laws come from an intuitive, and shared, universal sense of justice that humans possess.
“We sometimes think of the law as this completely rational enterprise that is the result of wise experts sitting around a table and working from logical principles,” says Carlton Patrick, an assistant professor in the University of Central Florida’s Department of Legal Studies and study co-author.
“Instead, what this study suggests is that these intuitions that people tend to share about justice may be the things that are becoming institutionalized.”
Using participants from the United States and India, researchers had people rate offences from one of three legal codes: the Laws of Eshnunna, Sumerian laws from nearly 3,800 years ago; the Tang Code, Chinese laws from nearly 1,400 years ago; and the Criminal Code of Pennsylvania, which reflects modern U.S. laws.
Participants were shown the offenses, but not the punishments that the law established.
The crimes ranged from ancient offenses, such as not keeping an ox in check, which caused a person to be gored, to modern ones, such as assault.
Some participants were asked to determine the appropriate fines for each offense, while others were asked to determine prison sentences.
The researchers found that the more seriously modern people judged a crime to be, the higher the actual legal punishment for the crime, despite participants living in different countries and legal codes that were separated by thousands of years.
“The match between participants’ intuitions and ancient laws was notable,” Sznycer says.
“Criminal laws, like the writing that supports those laws, are cultural inventions: present in some societies, absent in others,” he says.
“However, this new research adds empirical weight to the possibility that the capacity to make laws – the brain mechanisms that appraise offences and generate justice intuitions – are universal, and a part of human nature.”
If you’d like to get in touch with your value system, you can pick up the free Recovering Man book below that focuses a chapter on understanding your values and how to live by them