Prognosticating animals intrigue me. Indeed, I conjectured on clairvoyant critters after last year’s World Cup at “Prognosticating octopus Paul retires from picking soccer winners.” Bernie Madoff, for example, wouldn’t have fooled or trumped the reliability of Adam Monk’s investment advice. Mr. Adam Monk was a stock analyzing monkey who consistently beat all the major indexes four years in a row.
My other mental percolation arose because of Neil Strauss’s essay in the Wall Street Journal,“God at the Grammys: The Chosen Ones.” Strauss wrote about how musical celebrities from Lady Gaga to Christina Aguilera to Snoop Dogg to Eminen have this presumptuous conviction that God has divinely orchestrated their fates. ‘A Higher Power‘ has an interest in their success.
Now this isn’t a new concept. There are, for example, many famous athletes who believe God has an abiding interest in their sustainable fame. In fact, last September, I wondered, “Does God care if I make that putt . . . score that touchdown?”
But what really got me cogitatively exuberant was research from Eugene M. Caruso and Francesca Gino entitled, “Blind ethics: Closing one’s eyes polarizes moral judgments and discourages dishonest behavior.” See caruso_gino_cognition_2011.pdf.
The researchers’ study showed that “People who considered situations with their eyes closed rather than open, judged immoral behaviors as more unethical and moral behaviors as more ethical.”
The researchers made reference to the commonplace trial lawyer technique, one memorably celebrated in the movie version of John Grisham’s “A Time to Kill.” In the story, defense lawyer Jake Tyler Brigance’s summation starts with the following opening, “I want to tell you a story. I’m going to ask you all to close your eyes while I tell you the story. I want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to yourselves. Go ahead. Close your eyes, please.”
The researchers were clever to use this film reference to hook their premise. (Admittedly, Texas Professor Steve Russell did write in a film review that the courtroom scenes and defense tactics had plenty of holes but made for great theater. See “Law, Justice and Procedure on Planet Hollywood”).
It used to be that closing your eyes to something meant ignoring a wrong that should be righted. Now it may mean sharpened ethical acuity.
But as appealing as that last conceit may be, what shouldn’t be forgotten is that sometimes, closed eyes may also mean something else. Closed eyes may merely indicate sleep.