Mitch Brown and Donald Sacco
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships
Deontological and utilitarian moral decisions have unique communicative functions within the context of group living. Deontology more strongly communicates prosocial intentions, fostering greater perceptions of trust and desirability in general affiliative contexts. This general trustworthiness may extend to perceptions of fidelity in romantic relationships, leading to perceptions of deontological persons as better long-term mates, relative to utilitarians. In two studies, participants indicated desirability of both deontologists and utilitarians in long- and short-term mating contexts. In Study 1 (n = 102), women perceived a deontological man as more interested in long-term bonds, more desirable for long-term mating, and less prone to infidelity, relative to a utilitarian man. However, utilitarian men were undesirable as short-term mates. Study 2 (n = 112) had both men and women rate opposite sex targets’ desirability after learning of their moral decisions in a trolley problem. We replicated women’s preference for deontological men as long-term mates. Interestingly, both men and women reporting personal deontological motives were particularly sensitive to deontology communicating long-term desirability and fidelity, which could be a product of the general affiliative signal from deontology. Thus, one’s moral basis for decision-making, particularly deontologically-motivated moral decisions, may communicate traits valuable in long-term mating contexts.
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