What a shame

Kevin Lewis

August 29, 2017

Ignoring alarming news brings indifference: Learning about the world and the self
Elizabeth Levy Paluck, Eldar Shafir & Sherry Jueyu Wu
Cognition, October 2017, Pages 160-171

The broadcast of media reports about moral crises such as famine can subtly depress rather than activate moral concern. Whereas much research has examined the effects of media reports that people attend to, social psychological analysis suggests that what goes unattended can also have an impact. We test the idea that when vivid news accounts of human suffering are broadcast in the background but ignored, people infer from their choice to ignore these accounts that they care less about the issue, compared to those who pay attention and even to those who were not exposed. Consistent with research on self-perception and attribution, three experiments demonstrate that participants who were nudged to distract themselves in front of a television news program about famine in Niger (Study 1), or to skip an online promotional video for the Niger famine program (Study 2), or who chose to ignore the famine in Niger television program in more naturalistic settings (Study 3) all assigned lower importance to poverty and to hunger reduction compared to participants who watched with no distraction or opportunity to skip the program, or to those who did not watch at all.

Death Before Dishonor: Incurring Costs to Protect Moral Reputation
Andrew Vonasch et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Predicated on the notion that people's survival depends greatly on participation in cooperative society, and that reputation damage may preclude such participation, four studies with diverse methods tested the hypothesis that people would make substantial sacrifices to protect their reputations. A "big data" study found that maintaining a moral reputation is one of people's most important values. In making hypothetical choices, high percentages of "normal" people reported preferring jail time, amputation of limbs, and death to various forms of reputation damage (i.e., becoming known as a criminal, Nazi, or child molester). Two lab studies found that 30% of people fully submerged their hands in a pile of disgusting live worms, and 63% endured physical pain to prevent dissemination of information suggesting that they were racist. We discuss the implications of reputation protection for theories about altruism and motivation.

I Lie? We Lie! Why? Experimental Evidence on a Dishonesty Shift in Groups
Martin Kocher, Simeon Schudy & Lisa Spantig
Management Science, forthcoming

Unethical behavior such as dishonesty, cheating and corruption occurs frequently in organizations or groups. Recent experimental evidence suggests that there is a stronger inclination to behave immorally in groups than individually. We ask if this is the case, and if so, why. Using a parsimonious laboratory setup, we study how individual behavior changes when deciding as a group member. We observe a strong dishonesty shift. This shift is mainly driven by communication within groups and turns out to be independent of whether group members face payoff commonality or not (i.e., whether other group members benefit from one's lie). Group members come up with and exchange more arguments for being dishonest than for complying with the norm of honesty. Thereby, group membership shifts the perception of the validity of the honesty norm and of its distribution in the population.

Political Differences in Free Will Belief are Driven by Differences in Moralization
Cory Clark et al.
Florida State University Working Paper, July 2017

Five studies tested whether political conservatives' stronger free will beliefs are driven by their broader view of morality, and thus a broader motivation to assign responsibility. On an individual difference level, Study 1 found that political conservatives' higher moral wrongness judgments accounted for their higher belief in free will. In Study 2, conservatives ascribed more free will for negative events than liberals, while no differences emerged for positive events. For actions ideologically equivalent in perceived moral wrongness, free will judgments also did not differ (Study 3), and actions that liberals perceived as more wrong, liberals judged as more free (Study 4). Finally, higher wrongness judgments mediated the effect of conservatism on free will beliefs (Study 5). Higher free will beliefs among conservatives may be explained by conservatives' tendency to moralize, which strengthens motivation to justify blame with stronger belief in free will and personal accountability.

Honest People Tend to Use Less - Not More - Profanity: Comment on Feldman et al.'s (2017) Study 1
Reinout de Vries et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

This article shows that the conclusion of Feldman et al.'s (2017) Study 1 that profane individuals tend to be honest is most likely incorrect. We argue that Feldman et al.'s conclusion is based on a commonly held but erroneous assumption that higher scores on Impression Management Scales, such as the Lie Scale, are associated with trait dishonesty. Based on evidence from studies that have investigated (1) self-other agreement on Impression Management Scales, (2) the relation of Impression Management Scales with personality variables, and (3) the relation of Impression Management Scales with objective measures of cheating, we show that high scores on Impression Management Scales are associated with high - instead of low - trait honesty when measured in low-stakes conditions. Furthermore, using two data sets that included an "I never swear" item, we show that profanity use is negatively related to other reports of HEXACO honesty-humility and positively related to actual cheating.

Thinking More or Feeling Less? Explaining the Foreign-Language Effect on Moral Judgment
Sayuri Hayakawa et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Would you kill one person to save five? People are more willing to accept such utilitarian action when using a foreign language than when using their native language. In six experiments, we investigated why foreign-language use affects moral choice in this way. On the one hand, the difficulty of using a foreign language might slow people down and increase deliberation, amplifying utilitarian considerations of maximizing welfare. On the other hand, use of a foreign language might stunt emotional processing, attenuating considerations of deontological rules, such as the prohibition against killing. Using a process-dissociation technique, we found that foreign-language use decreases deontological responding but does not increase utilitarian responding. This suggests that using a foreign language affects moral choice not through increased deliberation but by blunting emotional reactions associated with the violation of deontological rules.

Dehumanization increases instrumental violence, but not moral violence
Tage Rai, Piercarlo Valdesolo & Jesse Graham
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 8 August 2017, Pages 8511-8516

Across five experiments, we show that dehumanization - the act of perceiving victims as not completely human - increases instrumental, but not moral, violence. In attitude surveys, ascribing reduced capacities for cognitive, experiential, and emotional states to victims predicted support for practices where victims are harmed to achieve instrumental goals, including sweatshop labor, animal experimentation, and drone strikes that result in civilian casualties, but not practices where harm is perceived as morally righteous, including capital punishment, killing in war, and drone strikes that kill terrorists. In vignette experiments, using dehumanizing compared with humanizing language increased participants' willingness to harm strangers for money, but not participants' willingness to harm strangers for their immoral behavior. Participants also spontaneously dehumanized strangers when they imagined harming them for money, but not when they imagined harming them for their immoral behavior. Finally, participants humanized strangers who were low in humanity if they imagined harming them for immoral behavior, but not money, suggesting that morally motivated perpetrators may humanize victims to justify violence against them. Our findings indicate that dehumanization enables violence that perpetrators see as unethical, but instrumentally beneficial. In contrast, dehumanization does not contribute to moral violence because morally motivated perpetrators wish to harm complete human beings who are capable of deserving blame, experiencing suffering, and understanding its meaning.

Complicity without connection or communication
Abigail Barr & Georgia Michailidou
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, October 2017, Pages 1-10

We use a novel laboratory experiment involving a die rolling task embedded within a coordination game to investigate whether complicity can emerge when decision-making is simultaneous, the potential accomplices are strangers and neither communication nor signaling is possible. Then, by comparing the behavior observed in this original game to that in a variant in which die-roll reporting players are paired with passive players instead of other die-roll reporters, while everything else is held constant, we isolate the effect of having a potential accomplice on the likelihood of an individual acting immorally. We find that complicity can emerge between strangers in the absence of opportunities to communicate or signal and that having a potential accomplice increases the likelihood of an individual acting immorally.

Protecting the Innocence of Youth: Moral Sanctity Values Underlie Censorship From Young Children
Rajen Anderson & E.J. Masicampo
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Three studies examined the relationship between people's moral values (drawing on moral foundations theory) and their willingness to censor immoral acts from children. Results revealed that diverse moral values did not predict censorship judgments. It was not the case that participants who valued loyalty and authority, respectively, sought to censor depictions of disloyal and disobedient acts. Rather, censorship intentions were predicted by a single moral value - sanctity. The more people valued sanctity, the more willing they were to censor from children, regardless of the types of violations depicted (impurity, disloyalty, disobedience, etc.). Furthermore, people who valued sanctity objected to indecent exposure only to apparently innocent and pure children - those who were relatively young and who had not been previously exposed to immoral acts. These data suggest that sanctity, purity, and the preservation of innocence underlie intentions to censor from young children.

Openness to experience predicts intrinsic value shifts after deliberating one's own death
Mike Prentice, Tim Kasser & Kennon Sheldon
Death Studies, forthcoming

Individual differences that might moderate processes of value shifting during and after deliberating one's own death remain largely unexplored. Two studies measured participants' openness and relative intrinsic-to-extrinsic value orientation (RIEVO) before randomly assigning them to conditions in which they wrote about their own death or dental pain for 6 days, after which RIEVO was assessed again up to 12 days later. When participants confronted thoughts about their own death over a sustained period, high openness to experience helped them shift toward intrinsic values. Implications for understanding openness' role in value reorientation from existential deliberation processes are discussed.

So Gross and Yet so Far Away: Psychological Distance Moderates the Effect of Disgust on Moral Judgment
Marius van Dijke et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

People morally evaluate norm violations that occur at various distances from the self (e.g., a corrupt politician vs. a cheating spouse). Yet, distance is rarely studied as a moderator of moral judgment processes. We focus on the influence of disgust on moral judgments, as evidence here has remained inconclusive. Based on feelings as information theory and the notion that disgust evolved as a pathogen avoidance mechanism, we argue that disgust influences moral judgment of psychologically distant (vs. near) norm violations. Studies 1 and 3 show that trait disgust sensitivity (but not trait anger and fear) more strongly predicts moral judgment of distant than near violations. Studies 2 and 4 show that incidental disgust affects moral judgment of distant (vs. near) violations and that the moderating role of distance is mediated by involvement of others (vs. the self) in the evaluator's conceptualization of the violation.

Truth or Punishment: Secrecy and Punishing the Self
Michael Slepian & Brock Bastian
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

We live in a world that values justice; when a crime is committed, just punishment is expected to follow. Keeping one's misdeed secret therefore appears to be a strategic way to avoid (just) consequences. Yet, people may engage in self-punishment to right their own wrongs to balance their personal sense of justice. Thus, those who seek an escape from justice by keeping secrets may in fact end up serving that same justice on themselves (through self-punishment). Six studies demonstrate that thinking about secret (vs. confessed) misdeeds leads to increased self-punishment (increased denial of pleasure and seeking of pain). These effects were mediated by the feeling one deserved to be punished, moderated by the significance of the secret, and were observed for both self-reported and behavioral measures of self-punishment.

Moral Character Impression Formation Depends on the Valence Homogeneity of the Context
Joris Lammers et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

People quickly form impressions about moral character; for example, if people learn that someone cheated, they form a negative impression about that person's character and expect that person to cheat in the future. Four studies show that the formation of such moral character impressions depends on the degree of valence homogeneity in the target's context. We argue that this is the case because the degree of homogeneity in the context (the evaluative ecology) informs perceivers about the reliability of signals. Experiments 1 and 2 found that people form less strong impressions about moral character when a person's behavior occurred in a heterogeneous context, that is, if unrelated positive and negative context information cooccurred. Experiment 3 demonstrated that nonmoral valence homogeneity produces similar effects. In Experiment 4, this effect also influenced strategic decisions in economic games. Together, these studies demonstrate the evaluative ecology plays a critical role in shaping moral character impressions.

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