Fearing pharmaceutical modifications

Psychology Today journalist Matthew Hutson covers an interesting study that investigated which drug-based enhancements people are most comfortable with and which changes to the self people view negatively.

It seems drugs that potentially change our fundamental character traits are treated with most suspicion whereas those that change our abilities are thought to be the most acceptable.

Collaborators Jason Riis at NYU, Joseph Simmons at Yale, and Geoffrey Goodwin at Princeton first asked people to rate how fundamental a series of traits were to personal identity. In order of rated importance, the traits were: reflexes, rote memory, wakefulness, foreign language ability, math ability, episodic memory, concentration, music ability, absent-mindedness, self-control, creativity, emotional recovery, relaxation, social comfort, motivation, mood, self-confidence, empathy, and kindness. So people tend to think that emotional traits are more fundamental than cognitive ones.

The researchers then found that people are most reluctant to take pills that enhance the highly fundamental traits. Their most cited concern was personal authenticity…. When rating which types of enhancements should be banned, people instead based their decisions on concerns about competitions and fairness–morality rather than identity.

Link to write-up.
Link to study abstract.

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