Moral Dynamics In Everyday Life: How Does Morality Evolve In Time?

Abstract

Recent research on moral dynamics (the processes and phenomena by which moral behavior and moral attitudes emerge, evolve or disappear) shows that an individual’s ethical mind-set (i.e., outcome-based vs. rule-based) moderates the impact of an initial (un)ethical act regarding the likelihood of behaving ethically on a subsequent occasion. More specifically, an outcome-based mind-set facilitates Moral Balancing (behaving (un)ethically decreases the likelihood of engaging in the same type of behavior later), whereas a rule-based mind-set facilitates Moral Consistency (engaging in an (un)ethical behavior increases the likelihood of engaging in the same type of behavior later). We looked at the evolution of moral choice across a series of scenarios and explored if these moral patterns (Balancing–Consistency) were maintained over time. Three studies showed that Moral Balancing was not maintained over time while Moral Consistency could be sustained, if the mind-set was reinforced before making a new moral judgment (but not otherwise).


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