Education and Attitudes toward Interpersonal and State-Sanctioned Violence
PS: Political Science & Politics, forthcoming
The link between education and liberal attitudes is among the most consistent findings in public-opinion research, but the theoretical explanations for this relationship warrant additional attention. Previous work suggested that the relationship is due to education socializing students to the “official culture” of the United States. This study uses the World Values Survey and General Social Survey to examine Americans’ attitudes toward the justifiability of violence. I find that Americans with more education are less likely to say that interpersonal violence — against women, children, and other individuals — can be justifiable. However, they are more likely to say that state-sanctioned violence — war and police violence — can be justifiable. These patterns are consistent with a modified socialization model of education and social attitudes. I conclude that American education socializes people to establishment culture, identity, and interests, which differentiate between unacceptable interpersonal violence and ostensibly acceptable state-sanctioned violence.
Internet Trolling and Everyday Sadism: Parallel Effects on Pain Perception and Moral Judgment
Erin Buckels et al.
Journal of Personality, forthcoming
Method: Online respondents (total N = 1,715) completed self‐report measures of personality and trolling behavior. They subsequently engaged in one of two judgment tasks. In Study 1, respondents viewed stimuli depicting scenes of emotional/physical suffering, and provided ratings of (a) perceived pain intensity and (b) pleasure experienced while viewing the photos. In Study 2, the iTroll questionnaire was developed and validated. It was then administered alongside a moral judgment task.
Results: Across both studies, online trolling was strongly associated with a sadistic personality profile. Moreover, sadism and trolling predicted identical patterns of pleasure and harm minimization. The incremental contribution of sadism was sustained even when controlling for broader antisocial tendencies (i.e., the Dark Triad, callous‐emotionality, and trait aggression).
The Perception of Family, City, and Country Values Is Often Biased
Paul Hanel et al.
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, forthcoming
People often make inferences about the values of other people in their families, cities, and countries, but there are reasons to expect systematic biases in these inferences. Across four studies (N = 1,763), we examined people’s perceptions of the values of their families, fellow citizens of the cities in which they live, and compatriots across three nations (Brazil, Germany, the United Kingdom). Our results show that people systematically misperceive comparison groups’ values. People underestimate the importance that their compatriots ascribe to more important values and overestimate the importance of less important values. This occurs in comparison with their own values, the actual values of the people living in the same city and the actual values of their compatriots. The effect sizes were medium to large. Furthermore, the results occurred independently of participants’ culture, time spent in the culture, and the underlying value model used. These results consistently show that people’s speculations about values in their community and society are biased in a self- and family favoring direction. In addition, we found that the structure of values (e.g., as proposed by Schwartz) holds for perceived family, fellow citizens of the cities in which they live, and compatriots’ values. Overall, our findings suggest that the values of other people are more selfless than is often believed.
Following one's true self and the sacredness of cultural values
Jinhyung Kim et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, May 2018, Pages 100-103
People seem to share a widespread lay belief that true selves are morally good entities. This lay belief has downstream consequences for a variety of domains such as person perception and perceived self-knowledge. The current work examines whether it also has consequences for moral decision-making. We hypothesized that people would make more moral decisions when they were focused on being authentic as opposed to being focused on other decision-making strategies. This hypothesis rests on the idea that if people believe their true selves are morally good, then attempts to follow that true self will make them less willing to behave immorally. Consistent with this hypothesis, four within-subjects studies (total N = 817) found that participants reported that they and others would need more money to violate a moral norm if they were focused on trying to be authentic relative to if they were focused on being rational, intuitive, or realistic.
Of Mice, Men, and Trolleys: Hypothetical Judgment Versus Real-Life Behavior in Trolley-Style Moral Dilemmas
Dries Bostyn, Sybren Sevenhant & Arne Roets
Psychological Science, forthcoming
Scholars have been using hypothetical dilemmas to investigate moral decision making for decades. However, whether people’s responses to these dilemmas truly reflect the decisions they would make in real life is unclear. In the current study, participants had to make the real-life decision to administer an electroshock (that they did not know was bogus) to a single mouse or allow five other mice to receive the shock. Our results indicate that responses to hypothetical dilemmas are not predictive of real-life dilemma behavior, but they are predictive of affective and cognitive aspects of the real-life decision. Furthermore, participants were twice as likely to refrain from shocking the single mouse when confronted with a hypothetical versus the real version of the dilemma. We argue that hypothetical-dilemma research, while valuable for understanding moral cognition, has little predictive value for actual behavior and that future studies should investigate actual moral behavior along with the hypothetical scenarios dominating the field.
Rage Against the Machine: Automation in the Moral Domain
Jan Gogoll & Matthias Uhl
Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, June 2018, Pages 97-103
The introduction of ever more capable autonomous systems is moving at a rapid pace. The technological progress will enable us to completely delegate to machines processes that were once a prerogative for humans. Progress in fields like autonomous driving promises huge benefits on both economical and ethical scales. Yet, there is little research that investigates the utilization of machines to perform tasks that are in the moral domain. This study explores whether subjects are willing to delegate tasks that affect third parties to machines as well as how this decision is evaluated by an impartial observer. We examined two possible factors that might coin attitudes regarding machine use — perceived utility of and trust in the automated device. We found that people are hesitant to delegate to a machine and that observers judge such delegations in relatively critical light. Neither perceived utility nor trust, however, can account for this pattern. Alternative explanations that we test in a post-experimental survey also do not find support. We may thus observe an aversion per se against machine use in the moral domain.
Explaining reluctance to benefit from others' misfortune
Gert‐Jan Lelieveld, Yoel Inbar & Eric van Dijk
Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, forthcoming
The current article investigates decisions where people are not causing harm to others, but only benefit from the harm. Specifically, we assessed people's willingness to benefit from other's chance‐caused misfortunes. In 5 studies, examining real behavior of individuals in a television game show (Study 1) and using experimental betting tasks (Studies 2–5), we show that people are reluctant to benefit from the misfortunes of others. Although in all studies participants' decisions were objectively unrelated to the likelihood of misfortune befalling others, subsequent analyses indicate that people erroneously feel that benefitting from others' misfortune increases the likelihood that such harm will actually occur. The results are discussed in relation to the literature on moral decision‐making and magical thinking.
Does Could Lead to Good? On the Road to Moral Insight
Ting Zhang, Francesca Gino & Joshua Margolis
Academy of Management Journal, forthcoming
Dilemmas featuring competing moral imperatives are prevalent in organizations and difficult to resolve. Whereas prior research has focused on how individuals adjudicate amongst these moral imperatives, we study the factors that influence when individuals find solutions that fall outside of the salient options presented. In particular, we study moral insight, or the discovery of solutions, other than selecting one of the competing moral imperatives over another, that honor both competing imperatives or resolve the tension among them. Although individuals intuitively consider the question "What should I do?" when contemplating moral dilemmas, we find that prompting people to consider "What could I do?" helps them generate moral insight. Together, these studies point toward the conditions that enable moral insight and important practical implications.
Discipline and desire: On the relative importance of willpower and purity in signaling virtue
Jonathan Berman & Deborah Small
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, May 2018, Pages 220-230
What does it mean to act virtuously? We examine lay perceptions of virtue, and show that different psychological drivers of virtuous behavior are relevant for different types of actions. When evaluating non-moral virtuous behavior, such as choosing to skip dessert, attributions of virtue depend on perceived willpower (i.e., the extent to which someone overcomes temptation in service of acting virtuous). In contrast, when evaluating moral virtuous behavior, such as choosing to be faithful to a spouse, attributions of virtue depend on perceived purity (i.e., the extent to which someone lacks temptation to sin and thereby does not need to exert willpower in service of acting virtuously). Study 1 demonstrates that when people describe their own actions, they associate willpower with non-moral virtuous behavior, and purity with moral virtuous behavior. Studies 2 & 3 examine judgments of others and show that as behaviors become moralized, people elevate the importance of purity relative to willpower when ascribing virtue. Finally, Study 4 examines perceptions of those who are “reformed” — having eliminated their previous sinful desires such that they no longer feel tempted. For non-moral behaviors, reformed individuals are seen as strong-willed and thus highly virtuous. However, for moral behaviors, reformed individuals are still seen as somewhat impure, and are judged to be less virtuous than those have never felt tempted by a particular vice. These results underscore how construing behaviors in moral terms shifts what people consider to be virtuous.
Incremental mindsets and the reduced forgiveness of chronic failures
Arseny Ryazanov & Nicholas Christenfeld
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, May 2018, Pages 33-41
Holding an incremental, rather than fixed, mindset confers wide-ranging benefits. Such benefits may, however, be accompanied by increased judgmental harshness of others' shortcomings. Across 3 studies (Studies 1, 2a, 2b; N = 416), after an induction of either an entity or incremental view of empathy, aggression, or motivation, participants were asked to imagine someone continually failing to show, or showing in abundance, the particular trait, and were then asked how blameworthy/praiseworthy each of these individuals was. Incremental-induced participants blamed a person showing consistently maladaptive levels of the trait more than did entity-induced participants. Increased blame was mediated by increased perceived control over behavior. Study 3 (N = 107) extended findings regarding lay theories of empathy to protagonists in short narratives. Study 4 (N = 184) attempted to reconcile our findings with previous research, showing that increased blame attribution by incremental theorists occurs for continual, but not single failures. Overall results suggest that the benefits of an incremental mindset may be partially offset by greater judgmental harshness of others.
The moral standing of animals: Towards a psychology of speciesism
Lucius Caviola, Jim Everett & Nadira Faber
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming
We introduce and investigate the philosophical concept of ‘speciesism’ — the assignment of different moral worth based on species membership — as a psychological construct. In five studies, using both general population samples online and student samples, we show that speciesism is a measurable, stable construct with high interpersonal differences, that goes along with a cluster of other forms of prejudice, and is able to predict real-world decision-making and behavior. In Study 1 we present the development and empirical validation of a theoretically driven Speciesism Scale, which captures individual differences in speciesist attitudes. In Study 2, we show high test-retest reliability of the scale over a period of four weeks, suggesting that speciesism is stable over time. In Study 3, we present positive correlations between speciesism and prejudicial attitudes such as racism, sexism, homophobia, along with ideological constructs associated with prejudice such as social dominance orientation, system justification, and right-wing authoritarianism. These results suggest that similar mechanisms might underlie both speciesism and other well-researched forms of prejudice. Finally, in Studies 4 and 5, we demonstrate that speciesism is able to predict prosociality towards animals (both in the context of charitable donations and time investment) and behavioral food choices above and beyond existing related constructs. Importantly, our studies show that people morally value individuals of certain species less than others even when beliefs about intelligence and sentience are accounted for. We conclude by discussing the implications of a psychological study of speciesism for the psychology of human-animal relationships.
Nature, nurture, and capital punishment: How evidence of a genetic–environment interaction, future dangerousness, and deliberation affect sentencing decisions
Natalie Gordon & Edie Greene
Behavioral Sciences & the Law, January/February 2018, Pages 65–83
Research has shown that the low-activity MAOA genotype in conjunction with a history of childhood maltreatment increases the likelihood of violent behaviors. This genetic–environment (G × E) interaction has been introduced as mitigation during the sentencing phase of capital trials, yet there is scant data on its effectiveness. This study addressed that issue. In a factorial design that varied mitigating evidence offered by the defense [environmental (i.e., childhood maltreatment), genetic, G × E, or none] and the likelihood of the defendant's future dangerousness (low or high), 600 mock jurors read sentencing phase evidence in a capital murder trial, rendered individual verdicts, and half deliberated as members of a jury to decide a sentence of death or life imprisonment. The G × E evidence had little mitigating effect on sentencing preferences: participants who received the G × E evidence were no less likely to sentence the defendant to death than those who received evidence of childhood maltreatment or a control group that received neither genetic nor maltreatment evidence. Participants with evidence of a G × E interaction were more likely to sentence the defendant to death when there was a high risk of future dangerousness than when there was a low risk. Sentencing preferences were more lenient after deliberation than before. We discuss limitations and future directions.
Who am I? The role of moral beliefs in children's and adults' understanding of identity
Larisa Heiphetz et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming
Adults report that moral characteristics — particularly widely shared moral beliefs — are central to identity. This perception appears driven by the view that changes to widely shared moral beliefs would alter friendships and that this change in social relationships would, in turn, alter an individual's personal identity. Because reasoning about identity changes substantially during adolescence, the current work tested pre- and post-adolescents to reveal the role that such changes could play in moral cognition. Experiment 1 showed that 8- to 10-year-olds, like adults, judged that people would change more after changes to their widely shared moral beliefs (e.g., whether hitting is wrong) than after changes to controversial moral beliefs (e.g., whether telling prosocial lies is wrong). Following up on this basic effect, a second experiment examined whether participants regard all changes to widely shared moral beliefs as equally impactful. Adults, but not children, reported that individuals would change more if their good moral beliefs (e.g., it is not okay to hit) transformed into bad moral beliefs (e.g., it is okay to hit) than if the opposite change occurred. This difference in adults was mediated by perceptions of how much changes to each type of belief would alter friendships. We discuss implications for moral judgment and social cognitive development.