In some areas, the world can change very fast but in others, it can lag behind. It sounds cliché, I know, but it's true.
Whether we're talking about the Western World or any other place, each society has its own problems and shortcomings. Discussing these delicate subjects isn't easy, either. Emotions can heat up such arguments very fast.
But it looks like Twitter user @ewgraiam found a way to get people together for a civilized chat: they asked nicely and offered a microphone. Turns out, it was all they needed to talk in peace about all the cultural things that could be changed to make the world a better place.
According to one study, published in Nature Human Behaviour, people tend to copy other people's choices, even when they know that those people did not make their choices freely, and when the decision does not reflect their own actual preferences. That's how powerful social norms can be.
Imagine you have witnessed a man rob a bank but then he gives the stolen money to an orphanage. Do you call the police or leave the robber be, so the orphanage can keep the money?
Researchers posed this moral dilemma to 150 participants recruited online in their first experiment. But before people made their choice, the researchers also presented information about how similar participants in a previous experiment had imagined acting during this scenario.
"Half of our participants were told that most other people had imagined reporting the robber. The remaining half were told that most other people had imagined not calling the police," Campbell Pryor and Piers Howe, the co-authors of the study, said.
"Crucially, however, we made it clear to our participants that these norms did not reflect people's preferences. Instead, the norm was said to have occurred due to some faulty code in the experiment that randomly allocated the previous participants to imagining reporting or not reporting the robber."
However, the participants followed the social norms of the previous people, even though they knew they were entirely arbitrary and did not reflect anyone's actual choices.
"A series of subsequent experiments, involving 631 new participants recruited online, showed that this result was robust. It held over different participants and different moral dilemmas. It was not caused by our participants not understanding that the norm was entirely arbitrary," the researchers explained.
Whether or not this is a good thing largely depends on the situation. For instance, social norms are being used to encourage pro-social behavior and have been successfully used to promote healthy eating, increase attendance at doctor appointments, reduce tax evasion, increase towel reuse at hotels, decrease long-term energy use, and increase organ donor registrations.