Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Are We More - or Less - Moral Than We Think?

23.02.2011
If asked whether we’d steal, most of us would say no. Would we try to save a drowning person? That depends—perhaps on our fear of big waves. Much research has explored the ways we make moral decisions. But in the clinch, when the opportunity arises to do good or bad, how well do our predictions match up with the actions we actually take?

A study by Rimma Teper, Michael Inzlicht, and Elizabeth Page-Gould of the University of Toronto Scarborough tested the difference between moral forecasting and moral action—and the reasons behind any mismatch.

Published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association of Psychological Science, the findings look encouraging: Participants acted more morally than they would have predicted.

But lest we get sentimental about that result, lead author and psychology PhD candidate Teper offers this: “There has been other work that has shown the opposite effect—that people are acting less morally” than they forecast.

What’s the missing link between moral reasoning and moral action? Emotion. Emotions—fear, guilt, love—play a central role in all thinking and behavior, including moral behavior. But when people are contemplating how they’ll act, “they don’t have a good grasp of the intensity of the emotions they will feel” in the breach, says Teper, so they misjudge what they’ll do.

For this study, three groups of students were given a math test of 15 questions. One group was told that a glitch in the software would cause the correct answer to show on the screen if they hit the space bar—but only they would know they’d hit it. This group took the test; a $5 reward was promised for 10 or more right answers. Another group was given a description of this moral dilemma, and was then asked to predict whether or not they would cheat for each question. The third group just took the test without the opportunity to cheat.

During the trial, electrodes measured the strength of participants’ heart contractions, their heart and breathing rates, and the sweat in their palms—all of which increase with heightened emotion. Not surprisingly, those facing the real dilemma were most emotional. Their emotions drove them to do the right thing and refrain from cheating.

The students asked only to predict their actions felt calmer—and said they’d cheat more than the test-takers actually did. Students who took the test with no opportunity to cheat were calmer as well, indicating the arousal that the students in the first group were feeling was unique to the moral dilemma.

But emotions conflict, and that figures in decision making too. “If the stakes were higher—say, the reward was $100—the emotions associated with that potential gain might override the nervousness or fear associated with cheating,” says Teper. In future research, “we might try to turn this effect around” and see how emotion leads people to act less morally than they forecast.

“This time, we got a rosy picture of human nature,” coauthor Michael Inzlicht comments. “But the essential finding is that emotions are what drive you to do the right thing or the wrong thing.”

For more information about this study, please contact: Rimma Teper at rimma.teper@gmail.com.

The APS journal Psychological Science is the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article "Are We More Moral Than We Think?: Exploring the Role of Affect in Moral Behavior and Moral Forecasting" and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Keri Chiodo at 202-293-9300 or kchiodo@psychologicalscience.org.

Keri Chiodo | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psychologicalscience.org

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Do microplastics harbour additional risks by colonization with harmful bacteria?
05.04.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

nachricht Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Magnetic nano-imaging on a table top

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Start of work for the world's largest electric truck

20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research

Atoms may hum a tune from grand cosmic symphony

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>