On the inescapability of bias in moral judgments

Bogdan Wojciszke


Basing on the popular distinction between controlled and automatic psychological processes we present results of the debate between rationalistic versus intuitionistic accounts of moral judgments. These judgments are a joint product of automatic and controlled processes and because the former are fast and continuous, they play a greater role than the latter which are slower and operate only in some conditions. We present results of two lines of our research supporting this conclusion. The first line showed that moral judgments of others’ behavior are strongly biased by the observer’s self-interests. The second line showed that performing a honesty-associated gesture (hand-over-heart) increases honesty perceived in persons who perform the gesture and increases the actual honesty in the performers’ behavior. Both these influences result from the operation of automatic processes (which base on associations and emotions) and bias moral judgment. The bias is unconscious and inescapable unless the controlled processes of information processing are activated.


moral judgment; moral behavior; self-interest bias

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