As mentioned a few posts ago, I'm reading the book Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. (My post about the Amsterdam flies was also inspired by Nudge.) Reading Nudge has motivated me to devote a post or two to recent advances in cognitive science and the implications these might have for moral behavior.
Romans 7: 14-24a
We know that the law is controlled by System 2 but I am controlled by System 1, sold as a slave to System 1. I do not understand what I do. For what System 2 wants to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, System 2 isn't doing it, but System 1. I know that System 1 controls me, that is, in my sinful nature. For System 2 has the desire to do what is good, but System 1 cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what System 2 does not want to do, it is not System 2 doing it, but it is System 1 that does it.
So I find this law at work: When System 2 wants to do good, System 1 is right there with me. For in System 2 I delight in God's law; but I see System 1 at work in the members of my body, waging war against System 2 and making me a prisoner of System 1 which is at work within my members. What a wretched man I am!
Here's the interesting part. Dr. Stroop, who died in 1973, was a member of my religious denomination, the Churches of Christ. Basically, the most famous and influential Church of Christ psychologist is Dr. John Ridley Stroop. Nothing I do as a psychologist will come remotely close to the impact of the Stroop Effect upon psychological research. Dr. Stroop is up there with Pavlov, Milgram and Skinner.
And the funny thing is that I knew none of this. Dr. Stroop so thoroughly disappeared from psychology that the discipline effectively lost track of him. Of course I'd heard of the Stroop Effect. Every psychology student knows about it. But no one ever talked about Dr. Stroop's other research or heard him at conferences. The Stroop Effect was alive and well, but Dr. Stroop had vanished. So I didn't know Dr. Stroop was a member of my religious denomination or that he was a former professor at my university. I only found out about all this when the Chair of my department pulled some Stroop cards from his desk one day. Turns out he was cleaning out some closets in the department and found some of Dr. Stroop's old cards, the ones he used in his dissertation research. The original Stroop stimuli cards! I was stunned. I mean, these things should be in the Smithsonian or something. But there they were, in a dusty old closet. And my Chair sat back and told me the fascinating story of Dr. John Ridley Stroop, the discoverer of the Stroop Effect.