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Judgments of moral character lay at the core of person- and self-perceptions, people make them incessantly and with great ease. People also widely and strongly believe in the objective nature of their moral judgment. However, the dual-process account of information processing posits that moral judgments are a joint product of two processes – automatic, affect-laden intuitions and controlled, rational decisions. Because the former are fast and continuously active, they may be expected to play a greater role than the latter, which are slower and active only in welcoming conditions. In effect, judgments of moral character should be prone to egocentric biases of the kind “what is good for me is generally good” (i.e. moral). Professor Wojciszke presents a series of studies showing that others’ dishonest behavior is evaluated leniently (up to positive), when the observer profits from this dishonesty. Actors bringing profits are liked by the observer and the increased liking of such actors completely mediates the increases in their moral evaluations. Observers truly believe in their biased moral judgments (and trust in the cheater who brings profits) and they are not aware that their moral judgments are biased by their interests (they believe that their judgments follow moral norms, not interests). Similar influences come from liking, originating from any source, e.g. belief similarity, mimicry, frequency of exposure or political allegiance. Studies on moderators showed that the egocentric bias disappears in conditions triggering rational thought, e.g. accountability, when the judges are expected to justify their judgments. In numerous societies we observe cultural wars accompanied by fierce moral disputes producing more heat than light. The present research suggests that these disputes may become more civilized if the disputants were asked not only for their positions but also for justification of these positions.

The lecture was held during EASP Summer School 2022 organized by SWPS University, Faculty of Psychology in Wroclaw, European Association of Social Psychology and Social Behavior Research Center.

Expert

prof. dr hab. Bogdan Wojciszke

prof. dr hab. Bogdan Wojciszke is a professor of psychology in SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities. His research interests involve social cognition, moral judgments, consequences of power, and beliefs in the nature of social world. He published 10 books and over 170 papers – many in leading international journals. In 1989-1991 and 2005 he was an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, in 2017 a visiting professor in University of Cambridge. He is a member of Polish Academy of Science and a fellow of Association for Psychological Science.

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