Erik G. Helzer & Clayton R. Critcher
Despite growing interest in the topic of moral character, there is very little precision
and a lack of agreement among researchers as to what is evaluated when people evaluate
character. In this chapter we define moral character in novel social cognitive terms and offer
empirical support for the idea that the central qualities of moral character are those deemed
essential for social relationships.
Here is an excerpt:
We approach this chapter from the theoretical standpoint that the centrality of character
evaluation is due to its function in social life. Evaluation of character is, we think, inherently a
judgment about a person’s qualifications for being a solid long-term social investment. That is,
people attempt to suss out moral character because they want to know whether a particular agent
is the type of person who likely possesses the necessary (even if not sufficient) qualities they
expect in a social relationship. In developing these ideas theoretically and empirically, we
consider what form moral character takes, discuss what this proposal suggests about how people
may and do assess others’ moral character, and identify an assortment of qualities that our
perspective predicts will be central to moral character.
The book chapter is here.