Vice and virtue

Kevin Lewis

March 09, 2017

Why Do We Hate Hypocrites? Evidence for a Theory of False Signaling

Jillian Jordan et al.

Psychological Science, forthcoming

Why do people judge hypocrites, who condemn immoral behaviors that they in fact engage in, so negatively? We propose that hypocrites are disliked because their condemnation sends a false signal about their personal conduct, deceptively suggesting that they behave morally. We show that verbal condemnation signals moral goodness (Study 1) and does so even more convincingly than directly stating that one behaves morally (Study 2). We then demonstrate that people judge hypocrites negatively - even more negatively than people who directly make false statements about their morality (Study 3). Finally, we show that "honest" hypocrites - who avoid false signaling by admitting to committing the condemned transgression-are not perceived negatively even though their actions contradict their stated values (Study 4). Critically, the same is not true of hypocrites who engage in false signaling but admit to unrelated transgressions (Study 5). Together, our results support a false-signaling theory of hypocrisy.


Frankly, We Do Give a Damn: The Relationship Between Profanity and Honesty

Gilad Feldman et al.

Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

There are two conflicting perspectives regarding the relationship between profanity and dishonesty. These two forms of norm-violating behavior share common causes and are often considered to be positively related. On the other hand, however, profanity is often used to express one's genuine feelings and could therefore be negatively related to dishonesty. In three studies, we explored the relationship between profanity and honesty. We examined profanity and honesty first with profanity behavior and lying on a scale in the lab (Study 1; N = 276), then with a linguistic analysis of real-life social interactions on Facebook (Study 2; N = 73,789), and finally with profanity and integrity indexes for the aggregate level of U.S. states (Study 3; N = 50 states). We found a consistent positive relationship between profanity and honesty; profanity was associated with less lying and deception at the individual level and with higher integrity at the society level.


Creativity in unethical behavior attenuates condemnation and breeds social contagion when transgressions seem to create little harm

Scott Wiltermuth, Lynne Vincent & Francesca Gino

Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, March 2017, Pages 106-126

Across six studies, people judged creative forms of unethical behavior to be less unethical than less creative forms of unethical behavior, particularly when the unethical behaviors imposed relatively little direct harm on victims. As a result of perceiving behaviors to be less unethical, people punished highly creative forms of unethical behavior less severely than they punished less-creative forms of unethical behavior. They were also more likely to emulate the behavior themselves. The findings contribute to theory by showing that perceptions of competence can positively color morality judgments, even when the competence displayed stems from committing an unethical act. The findings are the first to show that people are judged as morally better for performing bad deeds well as compared to performing bad deeds poorly. Moreover, the results illuminate how the characteristics of an unethical behavior can interact to influence the emulation and diffusion of that behavior.


Is There a Right to the Death of the Foetus?

Eric Mathison & Jeremy Davis

Bioethics, forthcoming

At some point in the future - perhaps within the next few decades - it will be possible for foetuses to develop completely outside the womb. Ectogenesis, as this technology is called, raises substantial issues for the abortion debate. One such issue is that it will become possible for a woman to have an abortion, in the sense of having the foetus removed from her body, but for the foetus to be kept alive. We argue that while there is a right to an abortion, there are reasons to doubt that there is a right to the death of the foetus. Our strategy in this essay is to consider and reject three arguments in favour of this latter right. The first claims that women have a right not to be biological mothers, the second that women have a right to genetic privacy, and the third that a foetus is one's property. Furthermore, we argue that it follows from rejecting the third claim that genetic parents also lack a right to the destruction of cryopreserved embryos used for in vitro fertilization. The conclusion that a woman possesses no right to the death of the foetus builds upon the claims that other pro-choice advocates, such as Judith Jarvis Thomson, have made.


Hierarchical rank and principled dissent: How holding higher rank suppresses objection to unethical practices

Jessica Kennedy & Cameron Anderson

Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, March 2017, Pages 30-49

When unethical practices occur in an organization, high-ranking individuals at the top of the hierarchy are expected to stop wrongdoing and redirect the organization to a more honorable path - this is, to engage in principled dissent. However, in three studies, we find that holding high-ranking positions makes people less likely to engage in principled dissent. Specifically, we find that high-ranking individuals identify more strongly with their organization or group, and therefore see its unethical practices as more ethical than do low-ranking individuals. High-ranking individuals thus engage less in principled dissent because they fail to see unethical practices as being wrong in the first place. Study 1 observed the relation between high-rank and principled dissent in an archival data set involving more than 11,000 employees. Studies 2 and 3 used experimental designs to establish the causal effect of rank and to show that identification is one key mechanism underlying it.


Incentives and cheating

Agne Kajackaite & Uri Gneezy

Games and Economic Behavior, March 2017, Pages 433-444

We study how cheating behavior is affected by incentives. After replicating the finding in the cheating game literature that lying does not increase with incentives, we show that this insensitivity is not a characteristic of the intrinsic lying cost, but rather a result of concern about being exposed as a liar. In a modified "mind" game in which this concern is eliminated, we find that people lie more, and in particular lie more when the incentives to do so increase. Thus, our results show that for many participants, the decision to lie follows a simple cost-benefit analysis: they compare the intrinsic cost of lying with the incentives to lie; once the incentives are higher than the cost, they switch from telling the truth to lying.


The Effects of Moral and Pragmatic Arguments Against Torture on Demands for Judicial Reform

Bernhard Leidner, Peter Kardos & Emanuele Castano

Political Psychology, forthcoming

Torture can be opposed on the basis of pragmatic (e.g., torture does not work) or moral arguments (e.g., torture violates human rights). Three studies investigated how these arguments affect U.S. citizens' attitudes toward U.S.-committed torture. In Study 1, participants expressed stronger demands for redressing the injustice of torture when presented with moral rather than pragmatic or no arguments against torture. Study 2 replicated this finding with an extended justice measure and also showed the moderating role of ingroup glorification and attachment. Moral arguments increased justice demands among those who typically react most defensively to ingroup-committed wrongdoings: the highly attached and glorifying. Study 3 showed that the effect of moral arguments against torture on justice demands and support for torture among high glorifiers is mediated by moral outrage and empathy but not guilt.


For the Sake of the Eternal Group: Perceiving the Group as Trans-Generational and Endurance of Ingroup Suffering

Dennis Kahn, Yechiel Klar & Sonia Roccas

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, February 2017, Pages 272-283

We introduce the distinction between perceiving the group as Intra-Generational (IG; including only the present generation of group members) and Trans-Generational (TG; including all past, present, and future generations of the group). In four studies (N = 1,265) administered to Jewish Israeli, Palestinian Israeli, American, and Swedish samples, we demonstrate that a tendency to perceive the group as TG is related to willingness to endure ingroup suffering and that this relationship is mediated by the degree to which the interest of the group as a whole is given primacy over the interest of the group as a collection of group members (Primacy of Interest). Furthermore, experimentally raising the salience of the group as TG leads to increased willingness to endure ingroup suffering as compared with raising the salience of the group as IG, and the effect of the TG salience manipulation is mediated by Primacy of Interest.


He never willed to have the will he has: Historicist narratives, "civilized" blame, and the need to distinguish two notions of free will

Michael Gill & Stephanie Cerce

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, March 2017, Pages 361-382

Harsh blame can be socially destructive. This article examines how harsh blame can be "civilized." A core construct here is the historicist narrative, which is a story-like account of how a person came to be the sort of person she is. We argue that historicist narratives regarding immoral actors can temper blame and that this happens via a novel mechanism. To illuminate that mechanism, we offer a novel theoretical perspective on lay beliefs about free will. We distinguish 2 senses of free will: (a) Freedom of action, which portrays the will as a dynamic choice-making mechanism and concerns whether the actor can exert volitional control via that mechanism at the time of action, and (b) Control of self-formation, which portrays the will as an enduring disposition (e.g., persistent desire to humiliate) and refers to whether the actor is truly the source of that disposition. Six experiments show that historicist narratives have no effect on perceived freedom of action, but rather temper blame by reducing perceived self-formative control. We also provide evidence against several additional theoretically derived alternative mediators (e.g., intentionality, perceived suffering). Further underlining the need to distinguish free will concepts, we show that biological narratives - unlike historicist narratives - temper blame via reductions in perceived freedom of action. Finally, to illuminate the meaning of "civilized" blame," we show that historicist narratives specifically reduce the urge to inflict spiteful punishments on offenders, but leave intact the urge to nonviolently guide the offender toward moral improvement.


If You're Going to Do Wrong, At Least Do It Right: Considering Two Moral Dilemmas at the Same Time Promotes Moral Consistency

Netta Barak-Corren et al.

Management Science, forthcoming

We study how people reconcile conflicting moral intuitions by juxtaposing two versions of classic moral problems: the trolley problem and the footbridge problem. When viewed separately, most people favor action in the former and disapprove of action in the latter, despite identical consequences. The difference is often explained in terms of the intention principle - whether the consequences are intended or incidental. Our results suggest that when the two problems are considered together, a different judgment emerges: participants reject the intention principle and embrace either the principle of utilitarianism, which favors action in both problems, or the action principle, which rejects action in both problems. In subsequent studies, we find that when required to choose between two harmful actions, people prefer the action that saves more lives, despite its being more aversive. Our findings shed light on the formation of moral judgment under normative conflict, the conditions for preference reversal, and the potential polarization of moral judgment under joint evaluation. Organizational implications are discussed.


A Must Lie Situation - Avoiding Giving Negative Feedback

Uri Gneezy et al.

Games and Economic Behavior, forthcoming

We examine under what conditions people provide accurate feedback to others. We use feedback regarding attractiveness, a trait people care about, and for which objective information is hard to obtain. Our results show that people avoid giving accurate face-to-face feedback to less attractive individuals, even if lying in this context comes at a monetary cost to both the person who gives the feedback and the receiver. A substantial increase of these costs does not increase the accuracy of feedback. However, when feedback is provided anonymously, the aversion to giving negative feedback is reduced.


Duplicity Among the Dark Triad: Three Faces of Deceit

Daniel Jones & Delroy Paulhus

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Although all 3 of the Dark Triad members are predisposed to engage in exploitative interpersonal behavior, their motivations and tactics vary. Here we explore their distinctive dynamics with 5 behavioral studies of dishonesty (total N = 1,750). All 3 traits predicted cheating on a coin-flipping task when there was little risk of being caught (Study 1). Only psychopathy predicted cheating when punishment was a serious risk (Study 2). Machiavellian individuals also cheated under high risk - but only if they were ego-depleted (Study 3). Both psychopathy and Machiavellianism predicted cheating when it required an intentional lie (Study 4). Finally, those high in narcissism showed the highest levels of self-deceptive bias (Study 5). In sum, duplicitous behavior is far from uniform across the Dark Triad members. The frequency and nature of their dishonesty is moderated by 3 contextual factors: level of risk, ego depletion, and target of deception. This evidence for distinctive forms of duplicity helps clarify differences among the Dark Triad members as well as illuminating different shades of dishonesty.


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