A Stickler For Rules
Last Updated: 2019-08-08 18:04

Here's something that feels like another instance of the deontologist vs consequentialist abstraction, except that the particulars of the situation are what stick out to me: When I choose between doing something sane or something that's endorsed by an official rule, I'll more-often-than-I-like opt to do the endorsed thing, even when it's obviously worse-off for me.

Some examples, of varying quality:

  • Not jaywalking, even when it's in a neighborhood or otherwise not-crowded place.
  • Asking for permission to do obvious things instead of just doing them
  • Focusing on the literal words that someone initially said, rather than their intent, or if they later recant.
  • Letting harmful policies happen instead of appealing them.

I'm reminded of that study which showed that people following an evacuation robot were led to stay in a room even when there was a fire, even when the robot was observed to be previously faulty. There's something about rules that overrides appealing to sanity. I'm a little worried that I bias towards this side compared to just doing the thing that works out better.

There are of course benefits to choosing the official option. The biggest one is that if someone questions your judgment later on, you can appeal to the established rules. That gives you a lot of social backing to lean on.

I think there's also a weird masochistic aspect of craving pity, of wanting to be in a situation that seems bad by virtue of nature, so I can absolve myself of responsibility. Something about how this used to be a play to secure ourselves more resources, through a pity play?