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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Moderators of The Liking Bias in Judgments of Moral Character

Bocian, K. Baryla, W. & Wojciszke, B. 
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 


Previous research found evidence for a liking bias in moral character judgments because judgments of liked people are higher than those of disliked or neutral ones. The present article sought conditions moderating this effect. In Study 1 (N = 792), the impact of the liking bias on moral character judgments was strongly attenuated when participants were educated that attitudes bias moral judgments. In Study 2 (N = 376), the influence of liking on moral character attributions was eliminated when participants were accountable for the justification of their moral judgments. Overall, these results suggest that even though liking biases moral character attributions, this bias might be reduced or eliminated when deeper information processing is required to generate judgments of others’ moral character. Keywords: moral judgments, moral character, attitudes, liking bias, accountability.

General Discussion

In this research, we sought to replicate the past results that demonstrated the influence of liking on moral character judgments, and we investigated conditions that could limit this influence. We demonstrated that liking elicited by similarity (Study 1) and mimicry (Study 2) biases the perceptions of another person’s moral character. Thus, we corroborated previous findings by Bocian et al. (2018), who found that attitudes bias moral judgments. More importantly, we showed conditions that moderate the liking bias. Specifically, in Study 1, we found evidence that forewarning participants that liking can bias moral character judgments weaken the liking bias two times. In Study 2, we demonstrated that the liking bias was eliminated when we made participants accountable for their moral decisions. 

By systematically examining the conditions that reduce the liking influences on moral character attributions, we built on and extended the past work in the area of moral cognition and biases reduction. First, while past studies have focused on the impact of accountability on the fundamental attribution error (Tetlock, 1985), overconfidence (Tetlock & Kim, 1987), or order of information (Schadewald & Limberg, 1992), we examined the effectiveness of accountability in debiasing moral judgments. Thus, we demonstrated that biased moral judgments could be effectively corrected when people are obliged to justify their judgments to others. Second, we showed that educating people that attitudes might bias their moral judgments, to some extent, effectively helped them debiased their moral character judgments. We thus extended the past research on the effectiveness of forewarning people of biases in social judgment and decision-making (Axt et al., 2018; Hershberger et al., 1997) to biases in moral judgments.