The US American author and philosopher Ayn Rand defined once: “Achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life, and that happiness, not pain or mindless self-indulgence, is the proof of your moral integrity, since it is the proof and the result of your loyalty to the achievement of your values.”

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This complex statement is based on psychological theories and can be interpreted as this:

  • We have two given variables: “values” and “behavior”. Normally the behavior should be motivated and based on one’s own values. But this does not automatically has to be the case. The strength of the values (and derived attitudes) determinates how easily behavior can be distracted from the values, for example through temptations or urgent needs. Values and attitudes are learnt in the different stages of socialization.
  • If we have such a situation that values and behavior are not compatible anymore, the individual feels being outside its normal state of harmony. Based on Leon Festinger’s “theory of cognitive dissonance”, the person perceives now an inner pressure to get back into harmony again. For this he or she can adapt the two variables “values” (= “cognition”) and “behavior”. Of course, normally the values should be stronger and so more resistant to a change, but if the person took a non-value based decision several times or in an important decision, the individual is not sure anymore if this is really a value and furthermore decides from the observed own behavior that there must be a complete different value behind, from which this action is related from. With this logical process, the human being is with the new assumed value in harmony again, as this new one is compatible with the own behavior.
  • As each person feels the need of having a positive picture of him or herself, values and behavior get compared to the assumed peer-group’s ones and if they are not consist with the ones of the peers, the person perceives this as negative and feels a pressure to develop assumed positive moral values and regarding behavior.
  • Integrity is defined as value based behavior. If values and behavior are in harmony, also the human being is, and with this feels inner happiness.

These are more than just theoretical conclusions. A controlled experiment confirmed the philosopher’s idea that an emotional arousal is related to an active ethical decision, as for example to deny the acceptance or offering of a bribe .

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