09.13, Tuesday 1 Feb 2011

On my way into work this morning (a seven minute walk), I saw two contractors painting the yellow lines on the side of the road. I hadn't realised they did it like this: they have a big roll of what looks like yellow ribbon. They cut long strips of ribbon and place it on the road. The ribbon looks like rubberised paint. Then they melt it with a flame torch, and it becomes road marking! Simple straight lines and no spilled paint. Easier all round I guess.

Also on my way into work, I let someone know their bag was dripping. Sucky for them, but for me it means my good deed for the day is done by 8.30 am, so I can really stick the boot in for the rest of Tuesday. Reading around about good deeds, it turns out that, yes, people who did one good deed were less likely to do another good deed in the near future. They had, quite literally, done their good deed for the day. -- from this article about good deeds and psychology.

There are a few nice tit-bits in the piece, including the anecdote that people having lunch after church tend to abuse the waitstaff and tip poorly, and this observation on the finding that one good deed means you needn't bother about another:

This meshes nicely with a self-signalling conception of morality. If part of the point of behaving morally is to convince yourself that you're a good person, then once you're convinced, behaving morally loses a lot of its value.

Self-signalling! I wonder how much behaviour is driven by the satisfaction you get when your observations of self match up with your desired positive traits. Yes, I suppose I am the kind of person that gives to charity. Yes, I suppose I am the kind of person that keeps a tidy house. Etc. And how dangerous that feedback loop is when you're reinforcing negative behaviour. Sigh, I suppose I am the kind of person who has no willpower.

Which, in a really prosaic way, makes me think about keeping a to-do list. Saying you'll do something, and then doing it! That's a good feeling alright.