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Good Things and Bad Things Come in Bundles

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My colleague, Lindsay Root Luna, has new data showing that virtues correlate. People’s scores intercorrelate on scales assessing humility, justice, wisdom, forgiveness, gratitude, hope, and patience. Show her a forgiving person and she will likely show you a humble, grateful person.

 

Root Luna’s observations triggered my thinking about other human dispositions that come bundled. First, there are the anti-virtues.

 

As the concept of ethnocentricism conveys, prejudices often coexist: anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-Black, anti-Muslim, and anti-women sentiments often live inside the same epidermis. People intuitively know this. Thus, as Diana Sanchez and colleagues have observed, White women often feel threatened by someone who displays racism, and men of color by sexism.

 

Likewise, people’s tendencies on the “dark triad”—narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy—are “substantially intercorrelated.” Show Peter Muris and colleagues a narcissist (perhaps your least favorite politician?), and they’ll show you a likely Machiavellian and amoral person.

 

On the brighter side, some good things, in addition to the virtues, also tend to come wrapped in the same skin. Charles Spearman recognized this long ago with the concept of general intelligence (g). Those who score high in one cognitive domain have some tendency to score higher than average in other areas such as reasoning or spatial ability, or even perceptual speed.

 

Athleticism offers another example of packaged gifts. The ability to run fast is distinct from muscular strength or the eye-hand coordination involved in the precise pitching of a ball. Yet there remains some tendency for athletic excellence in one domain to correlate with that in another. Good tennis players may also be better than average basketball players.

 

Surely this does not exhaust the list. Can you think of other examples of correlated good things and bad things?

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About the Author
David Myers has spent his entire teaching career at Hope College, Michigan, where he has been voted “outstanding professor” and has been selected by students to deliver the commencement address. His award-winning research and writings have appeared in over three dozen scientific periodicals and numerous publications for the general public. He also has authored five general audience books, including The Pursuit of Happiness and Intuition: Its Powers and Perils. David Myers has chaired his city's Human Relations Commission, helped found a thriving assistance center for families in poverty, and spoken to hundreds of college and community groups. Drawing on his experience, he also has written articles and a book (A Quiet World) about hearing loss, and he is advocating a transformation in American assistive listening technology (see www.hearingloop.org).