MELBOURNE/WARSAW – Many people make New Year’s resolutions. The most common ones, at least in the United States, are to exercise more, eat healthier, save money, lose weight, or reduce stress. Some may resolve to be better to a particular person — not to criticize their partner, to visit their aging grandmother more often, or to be a better friend to someone close to them. Yet few people — just 12%, according to one U.S. study — resolve to become a better person in general, meaning better in a moral sense.
One possible explanation is that most people focus on their own well-being, and don’t see being morally better as something that is in their own interest. A more charitable explanation is that many people see morality as a matter of conforming to a set of rules establishing the things we should not do.