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Moral Spillovers: The Effect of Moral Mandate Violations on Deviant Behavior

  • Publication: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

2008, Janice Nadler, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

Mullen E. & Nadler, J., Moral Spillovers: The Effect of Moral Mandate Violations on Deviant Behavior, 44 JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY 1239-1245 (2008).

Two experiments investigated whether outcomes that violate people’s moral standards increase
their deviant behavior (the moral spillover effect). In Study 1, participants with and without a
moral mandate (i.e., a strong attitude rooted in moral conviction) read about a legal trial in which
the outcome supported, opposed or was unrelated to their moral mandate. Relative to when
outcomes supported moral mandates, when outcomes opposed moral mandates people judged the
outcome to be less fair, were more angry, were less willing to accept the outcome, and were
more likely to take a borrowed pen. In Study 2, participants who recalled another person’s moral
violation were more likely to cheat on an experimental task relative to angry or neutral condition
participants. Taken together, results provide evidence for moral spillover: outcomes that violate
moral standards increase deviant behavior.

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