Saturday, September 01, 2012

Be Still, My Heart

Listen to Your Heart: When False Somatic Feedback Shapes Moral Behavior

Jun Gu, Chen-Bo Zhong & Elizabeth Page-Gould
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

A pounding heart is a common symptom people experience when confronting moral dilemmas. The authors conducted 4 experiments using a false feedback paradigm to explore whether and when listening to a fast (vs. normal) heartbeat sound shaped ethical behavior. Study 1 found that perceived fast heartbeat increased volunteering for a just cause. Study 2 extended this effect to moral transgressions and showed that perceived fast heartbeat reduced lying for self-gain. Studies 3 and 4 explored the boundary conditions of this effect and found that perceived heartbeat had less influence on deception when people are mindful or approach the decision deliberatively. These findings suggest that the perceived physiological experience of fast heartbeats may signal greater distress in moral situations and hence motivate people to take the moral high road.


How Quick Decisions Illuminate Moral Character

Clayton Critcher, Yoel Inbar & David Pizarro
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

It has been suggested that people attend to others’ actions in the service of forming impressions of their underlying dispositions. If so, it follows that in considering others’ morally relevant actions, social perceivers should be responsive to accompanying cues that help illuminate actors’ underlying moral character. This article examines one relevant cue that can characterize any decision process: the speed with which the decision is made. Two experiments show that actors who make an immoral decision quickly (vs. slowly) are evaluated more negatively. In contrast, actors who arrive at a moral decision quickly (vs. slowly) receive particularly positive moral character evaluations.  Quick decisions carry this signal value because they are assumed to reflect certainty in the decision (Experiments 1 and 2), which in turn signals that more unambiguous motives drove the behavior (Experiment 2), which in turn explains the more polarized moral character evaluations. Implications for moral psychology and the law are discussed.

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