Research on human behavior

The other day, I posted an existential question on Facebook: “if you do something wrong without knowing it, is it “less bad” than if you do it knowingly, even though the consequences of your action are the same, either way?”

I can’t decide for myself.

First, I had decided that it was “less bad” if you did something wrong without knowing it. I know that “ignoring the law is not a defense” , but in every day’s life, I figure that we all do stuff, not always realizing that we shouldn’t. We park our car and don’t feed the meter because it’s Saturday. Then on our way back to the car, we see a sign  that says “meter parking Mondays through Saturdays”. Would it be normal to get a ticket? Yeah.  Would it feel unfair? A bit, we did not see the sign, it was not intentional…

Then, somebody did something bad to me. Totally purposely! I got really upset and as I was venting to my friends, I surprised myself saying, “If the perpetrator had acted not realizing that it was wrong, it would have been more acceptable. But because it was done knowingly, it makes it worse.” Really? Why?” Somehow, as I was saying it out loud, my reasoning did not seem to make sense.

As I still could not decide whether it was indeed “less bad” or not, I turned to my wise nine year old boy for his opinion.

“If you do something wrong without knowing it, is it “less bad” than if you do it knowingly?” I asked him. He looked at me like I had totally lost my mind and lectured, “Of course, it is less bad, mom! If I do something that I am not allowed to do but I don’t know that it’s not allowed, it’s ok. I should not be punished for it.” How convenient! I think he was subtly telling me to remember that conversation next time I am on his case about being on his video game and he goes, “But I did not know I was not allowed!”

“So, for example, if your little sister throws a rock at your head, not knowing that it could hurt and gives you the biggest bump and headache, she should not be told off or punished, right?”

“No way! Of course she should. That’s not the same!!”

So my conclusion, based on the above THOROUGH research (!!) is this: obviously, intent is a very important part of actions. Doing something without intending to hurt is not as bad as intending to. EXCEPT in the following cases:

You are the victim. Then forget intent, bad is just BAD!

You think that the person hurting you did it on purpose, regardless of what he / she says. In fact, you don’t even need to ask them, you just decide for yourself, based on … what you think… and that’s that!

The person hurting you is a sibling – Then OF COURSE it was done on purpose. Are you kidding me?!!!

You don’t know the person who hurt you – So obviously, they were doing it on purpose. Because if they knew you, they wouldn’t, would they?

Doesn’t leave much room for the poor dude who really did not mean to do anything bad…




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