It's bad

Kevin Lewis

July 18, 2017

Resisting Temptation for the Good of the Group: Binding Moral Values and the Moralization of Self-Control
Marlon Mooijman et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

When do people see self-control as a moral issue? We hypothesize that the group-focused "binding" moral values of Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion, and Purity/degradation play a particularly important role in this moralization process. Nine studies provide support for this prediction. First, moralization of self-control goals (e.g., losing weight, saving money) is more strongly associated with endorsing binding moral values than with endorsing individualizing moral values (Care/harm, Fairness/cheating). Second, binding moral values mediate the effect of other group-focused predictors of self-control moralization, including conservatism, religiosity, and collectivism. Third, guiding participants to consider morality as centrally about binding moral values increases moralization of self-control more than guiding participants to consider morality as centrally about individualizing moral values. Fourth, we replicate our core finding that moralization of self-control is associated with binding moral values across studies differing in measures and design - whether we measure the relationship between moral and self-control language across time, the perceived moral relevance of self-control behaviors, or the moral condemnation of self-control failures. Taken together, our findings suggest that self-control moralization is primarily group-oriented and is sensitive to group-oriented cues.

The impact of power and powerlessness on blaming the victim of sexual assault
Claire Gravelin, Monica Biernat & Matthew Baldwin
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, forthcoming

Sexual assault is often described as motivated by power, yet there is relatively little experimental research investigating the effect of power (and powerlessness) on interpretations of a sexual assault. Two studies manipulated participants' feelings of power prior to a thought-listing task about sexual assault victims (Study 1) or an evaluation of a case of sexual assault (Study 2). Among men, feelings of powerlessness led to reduced victim blaming, while powerlessness tended to increase victim blaming among women (Study 2). These results indicate that powerlessness has different implications for men and women, increasing men's ability to take the perspective of a victim of sexual assault, but increasing women's sense of threat and defensiveness. Both studies support a default status explanation for men such that feelings of powerlessness - a state that deviates from men's typical high-power "default" status in society - increase perspective taking and thereby reduce victim blame. Among women, however, powerlessness may trigger a defensive response, resulting in greater blaming.

Exposure to Sexual Stimuli Induces Greater Discounting Leading to Increased Involvement in Cyber Delinquency Among Men
Wen Cheng & Wen-Bin Chiou
Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, forthcoming

People frequently encounter sexual stimuli during Internet use. Research has shown that stimuli inducing sexual motivation can lead to greater impulsivity in men, as manifested in greater temporal discounting (i.e., a tendency to prefer smaller, immediate gains to larger, future ones). Extant findings in crime research suggest that delinquents tend to focus on short-term gains while failing to adequately think through the longer-term consequences of delinquent behavior. We experimentally tested the possibility that exposure to sexual stimuli is associated with the tendency to engage in cyber delinquency among men, as a result of their overly discounting remote consequences. In Experiment 1, participants exposed to pictures of "sexy" women were more likely to discount the future and were more inclined to make cyber-delinquent choices (e.g., cyberbullying, cyber fraud, cyber theft, and illegal downloading), compared with male participants who rated the sex appeal of less sexy opposite-sex pictures. However, these relationships were not observed in female participants exposed to either highly or less sexy pictures of men. In Experiment 2, male participants exposed to sexual primes showed a greater willingness to purchase a wide range of counterfeit rather than authentic products online and experienced a higher likelihood of logging into the other person's Facebook webpage (i.e., invading online privacy). The discounting tendency mediated the link between exposure to sexual primes and the inclination to engage in cyber-delinquent behavior. These findings provide insight into a strategy for reducing men's involvement in cyber delinquency; that is, through less exposure to sexual stimuli and promotion of delayed gratification. The current results suggest that the high availability of sexual stimuli in cyberspace may be more closely associated with men's cyber-delinquent behavior than previously thought.

Not Our Fault: Judgments of Apathy Versus Harm Toward Socially Proximal Versus Distant Others
Michael Gilead, Yair Ben David & Yael Ecker
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

The current research aimed to delineate the moral intuitions that underlie apathy toward the suffering of socially distant others. Past research has shown that people endorse in-group-focused morality, according to which the fate of socially distant others is discounted, and harm-focused morality, according to which the omission of care is viewed less negatively as compared to the commission of harm. In the current study, we investigated how these two moral principles interact, by examining whether increased social distance differentially attenuates the severity of moral judgments concerning acts of apathy and harm. The results of five studies show that judgments concerning the omission of care are dependent on social distance, whereas judgments concerning the commission of harm are not. The findings challenge normative theories of morality that deny the legitimacy of "positive rights" and positive theories of morality that see harm and care as two end points of the same psychological continuum.

Individual Differences in Reliance on Intuition Predict Harsher Moral Judgments
Sarah Ward & Laura King
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

The notion that intuition guides moral judgment is widely accepted. Yet, there is a dearth of research examining whether individual differences in reliance on intuition influence moral judgment. Five studies provided evidence that faith in intuition (FI) predicts higher condemnation of moral transgressions. Studies 1 and 2 (combined N = 543) demonstrated that FI predicted higher moral condemnation of strange actions characterized by ambiguous harm. This association maintained controlling for a host of relevant ideological and emotional "third" variables. Three experiments demonstrated this relationship to be robust in the face of manipulations. In Study 3 (N = 320), participants rated whether moral scenarios involved harm or victims prior to (vs. after) moral judgments. Although considering harm and victims prior to judgments lowered condemnation toward these actions, the manipulation did not moderate the association between FI and condemnation. FI related to moral condemnation of unconventional actions even after consideration of harm and victims. In Study 4 (N = 236), a manipulation designed to enhance deliberation lowered overall moral condemnation (vs. control group), but did not attenuate the relationship between FI and moral condemnation. In Study 5 (N = 204), participants quickly categorized actions according to whether or not they were immoral, harmful, or involved victims. FI predicted higher condemnation of ambiguously harmful actions even when these judgments were made rapidly. Implications for examining individual differences in intuition in the context of dominant theories in moral psychology (dyadic morality, Moral Foundations Theory) are addressed.

Witnessing Moral Violations Increases Conformity in Consumption
Ping Dong & Chen-Bo Zhong
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Consumers frequently encounter moral violations (e.g., financial scandal, cheating, and corruption) in their daily lives. Yet little is known about how exposure to moral violations may affect consumer choice. By synthesizing insights from research on social order and conformity, we suggest that mere exposure to others' immoral behaviors heightens perceived threat to social order, which increases consumers' endorsement of conformist attitudes and hence their preferences for majority-endorsed choices in subsequently unrelated consumption situations. Five studies conducted across different experimental contexts and different product categories provided convergent evidence showing that exposure to moral violations increases consumers' subsequent conformity in consumption. Moreover, the effect disappears (a) when the moral violator has already been punished by third parties (study 4) and (b) when the majority-endorsed option is viewed as being complicit with the moral violation (study 5). This research not only demonstrates a novel downstream consequence of witnessing moral violations on consumer choice but also advances our understanding of how conformity can buffer the negative psychological consequences of moral violations and how moral considerations can serve as an important basis for consumer choice.

Emotional Content in Wikipedia Articles on Negative Man-Made and Nature-Made Events
Hannah Greving et al.
Journal of Language and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Wikipedia emphasizes the objectivity of content. Yet, Wikipedia articles also deal with negative events that potentially elicit intense emotions. Undesirable outcomes (e.g., earthquakes) are known to elicit sadness, while undesirable outcomes caused by others' actions (e.g., terrorist attacks) are known to elicit anger. Internet users' emotional responses are likely to end up in Wikipedia articles on those events as characteristics of Internet users spill over to Wikipedia articles. Therefore, we expected that Wikipedia articles on terrorist attacks contain more anger-related and less sadness-related content than articles on earthquakes. We analyzed newly created Wikipedia articles about the two events (Study 1) as well as more current versions of those Wikipedia articles after the events had already happened (Study 2). The results supported our expectations. Surprisingly, Wikipedia articles on those two events contained more emotional content than related Wikipedia talk pages (Study 3). We discuss the implications for Wikipedia and future research.

Hypocritical Flip-Flop, or Courageous Evolution? When Leaders Change Their Moral Minds
Tamar Kreps, Kristin Laurin & Anna Merritt
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

How do audiences react to leaders who change their opinion after taking moral stances? We propose that people believe moral stances are stronger commitments, compared with pragmatic stances; we therefore explore whether and when audiences believe those commitments can be broken. We find that audiences believe moral commitments should not be broken, and thus that they deride as hypocritical leaders who claim a moral commitment and later change their views. Moreover, they view them as less effective and less worthy of support. Although participants found a moral mind changer especially hypocritical when they disagreed with the new view, the effect persisted even among participants who fully endorsed the new view. We draw these conclusions from analyses and meta-analyses of 15 studies (total N 5,552), using recent statistical advances to verify the robustness of our findings. In several of our studies, we also test for various possible moderators of these effects; overall we find only 1 promising finding: some evidence that 2 specific justifications for moral mind changes - citing a personally transformative experience, or blaming external circumstances rather than acknowledging opinion change - help moral leaders appear more courageous, but no less hypocritical. Together, our findings demonstrate a lay belief that moral views should be stable over time; they also suggest a downside for leaders in using moral framings.

Moral judgments of risky choices: A moral echoing effect
Mary Parkinson & Ruth Byrne
Judgment and Decision Making, May 2017, Pages 236-252

Two experiments examined moral judgments about a decision-maker's choices when he chose a sure-thing, 400 out of 600 people will be saved, or a risk, a two-thirds probability to save everyone and a one-thirds probability to save no-one. The results establish a moral echoing effect - a tendency to credit a decision-maker with a good outcome when the decision-maker made the typical choices of the sure-thing in a gain frame or the risk in a loss frame, and to discredit the decision-maker when there is a bad outcome and the decision-maker made the atypical choices of a risk in a gain frame or a sure-thing in a loss frame. The moral echoing effect is established in Experiment 1 (n=207) in which participants supposed the outcome would turn well or badly, and it is replicated in Experiment 2 (n=173) in which they knew it had turned out well or badly, for judgments of moral responsibility and blame or praise. The effect does not occur for judgments of cause, control, counterfactual alternatives, or emotions.

Disloyalty aversion: Greater reluctance to bet against close others than the self
Simone Tang et al.
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, May 2017, Pages 1-13

We examine the mechanisms by which loyalty can induce risk seeking. In seven studies, participants exhibited disloyalty aversion - they were more reluctant to bet on the failure of a close other than on their own failure. In contrast, participants were just as willing to bet on the failure of strangers as on their own failure. This effect persisted when bets were made in private, payouts were larger for betting on failure than success (Studies 1-4, 6), and failure was most likely (Studies 2-6). We propose that disloyalty aversion occurs because the negative identity signal to the self that hedging creates can outweigh the rewards conferred by hedging. Indeed, disloyalty aversion was moderated by factors affecting the strength of this self-signal and the payout of the hedge, including the closeness of the other person, bettors' trait loyalty, and payout magnitude (Studies 3-5). Disloyalty aversion strongly influences social preferences involving risk.

Lying Upside-Down: Alibis Reverse Cognitive Burdens of Dishonesty
Anna Foerster et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, forthcoming

The cognitive processes underlying dishonesty, especially the inhibition of automatic honest response tendencies, are reflected in response times and other behavioral measures. Here we suggest that explicit false alibis might have a considerable impact on these cognitive operations. We tested this hypothesis in a controlled experimental setup. Participants first performed several tasks in a preexperimental mission (akin to common mock crime procedures) and received a false alibi afterward. The false alibi stated alternative actions that the participants had to pretend to have performed instead of the actually performed actions. In a computer-based inquiry, the false alibi did not only reduce, but it even reversed the typical behavioral effects of dishonesty on response initiation (Experiment1) and response execution (Experiment 2). Follow-up investigations of response activation via distractor stimuli suggest that false alibis automatize either dishonest response retrieval, the inhibition of the honest response, or both (Experiments 3 and 4). This profound impact suggests that false alibis can override actually performed activities entirely and, thus, documents a severe limitation for cognitive approaches to lie detection.

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