OK, so there’s this theory floating around Twitter that says it can determine whether someone is a good or a bad person faster than any priest or psychology test.

From the looks of it, the theory originated in the dark corners of 4chan but it became really popular when Jared from Atlanta shared it on Twitter. It quickly received over 680K likes there, with people discussing if it’s valid or not.

So what is all the fuss about? The theory proposes that a person’s moral character can be determined when they decide to return a shopping cart to a designated “cart return” spot or not. As simple as the statement is, the rationale behind it, however, is a bit more complex.

More info: Twitter



Most people in the comments under the thread agree that returning the shopping cart is the sensible thing to do and refusing to do so can make a strong case against you in the “are you a good person” category. These folks include former retail employees, who — for better or worse — have definitely seen the worst side of humanity. Trust me, I’ve worked as a waiter.

Psychotherapist and counselor Tati Silva said that The Shopping Cart Theory makes some valid points. “It goes back to character and personality, both used to describe someone’s behavior,” Silva told Bored Panda. “Personality is shaped by one’s heredity and environment in which they were exposed, easy to ready (Lickeman, 2011). As for one’s character like honesty, virtue, and kindliness. They are revealed over time, through various situations.”

“Characters are heavily influenced by the different situations we engage in. Therefore, if you choose not to take the shopping cart back it will expose your character,” Silva explained. “Because there is not a law that prohibits it or says that is wrong. The behavior will continue because it is the individual that needs to determine what is right or wrong, bad or good because — again — there aren’t any social norms or rules that specify this behavior might be considered inappropriate.”

Silva believes the shopping cart theory can expand to other behaviors too, such as throwing rubbish, cigarette butts, gum, masks, or gloves on the floor. Even laughing when someone falls or doesn’t hold the door for others. “That might reveal your moral character. One might do it without being aware of it because it is engraved in their habit. However, that can be changed by expanding self-awareness. It is likely the first step in gaining control over any behavior you wish to change. “




Interestingly, similar moral dilemmas are often used by researchers to identify psychopathic traits as they can offer a deeper understanding of someone’s judgment. In one study, for example, a team of psychologists asked participants to respond to a set of hypothetical scenarios and found that those who gave utilitarian responses scored higher on measures of psychopathy.

One scenario in particular, developed by philosopher Philippa Foot, has been used like this for decades. According to Spring, The Trolley Dilemma, which was adapted by Judith Jarvis Thomson in 1985, goes like this: “A runaway trolley is about to run over and kill five people and you are standing on a footbridge next to a large stranger; your body is too light to stop the train, but if you push the stranger onto the tracks, killing him, you will save the five people. Would you push the man?”

The study, published in the journal Cognition, determined that people who answered ‘Yes’ had higher scores on measures of psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and life meaninglessness compared to those who chose not to push the innocent man. Also, fun fact, the illustration for The Shopping Cart Theory looks as if it was done based on The Trolley Dilemma. Who knows, maybe it inspired this whole thing.

People had a lot to say about the theory

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