The strategic moral self: self-presentation shapes moral dilemma judgments

Sarah C. Rom, Paul Conway

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Abstract

Research has focused on the cognitive and affective processes underpinning dilemma judgments where causing harm maximizes outcomes. Yet, recent work indicates that lay perceivers infer the processes behind others' judgments, raising two new questions: whether decision-makers accurately anticipate the inferences perceivers draw from their judgments (i.e., meta-insight), and, whether decision-makers strategically modify judgments to present themselves favorably. Across seven studies, a) people correctly anticipated how their dilemma judgments would influence perceivers' ratings of their warmth and competence, though self-ratings differed (Studies 1–3), b) people strategically shifted public (but not private) dilemma judgments to present themselves as warm or competent depending on which traits the situation favored (Studies 4–6), and, c) self-presentation strategies augmented perceptions of the weaker trait implied by their judgment (Study 7). These results suggest that moral dilemma judgments arise out of more than just basic cognitive and affective processes; complex social considerations causally contribute to dilemma decision-making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-37
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume74
Early online date30 Aug 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018

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