Psychological studies have shown that people's ethical behavior is often out of sync with their sincerely held moral beliefs. Disturbing examples of this phenomena include the Standford Prison Experiments, where subjects tasked with being prison "guards," became increasingly more brutal towards "inmates." A less well know study conducted by Darley and Batson among seminarians, found that students who said they wanted to enter the ministry in order to help people where likely to ignore a person in distress depending on the circumstances.
Does the Darley and Batson study indicate that people actually aren't as moral as they think they are? Maybe. Or is it that people are just so mindlessly busy and self absorbed that they don't stop to focus on what is happening around them? Does distraction act as an impediment to helping others?
Epictetus argued that mindfullness, also known as prosoche, (which can be translated as ‘attention’) is essential for living an ethical life. Mindfullness is the antidote to the distracted, self-absorbed state that many people walk around in.