By George E. Newman, Paul Bloom, & Joshua Knobe
Pers Soc Psychol Bull February 2014 vol. 40 no. 2 203-216
The belief that individuals have a “true self” plays an important role in many areas of psychology as well as everyday life. The present studies demonstrate that people have a general tendency to conclude that the true self is fundamentally good—that is, that deep inside every individual, there is something motivating him or her to behave in ways that are virtuous. Study 1 finds that observers are more likely to see a person’s true self reflected in behaviors they deem to be morally good than in behaviors they deem to be bad. Study 2 replicates this effect and demonstrates observers’ own moral values influence what they judge to be another person’s true self. Finally, Study 3 finds that this normative view of the true self is independent of the particular type of mental state (beliefs vs. feelings) that is seen as responsible for an agent’s behavior.
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