Do the Right Thing

Kevin Lewis

October 21, 2021

Sacrificing Animals in the Name of Scientific Authority: The Relationship Between Pro-Scientific Mindset and the Lethal Use of Animals in Biomedical Experimentation
Laurent Bègue & Kevin Vezirian
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

The present research investigated how scientific authority increases the lethal use of animals in biomedical experimentation. In two behavioral studies (N = 151 and 150), participants were required to incrementally administer 12 doses of a toxic chemical to a 53-cm fish (in reality, a biomimetic robot) for research on animal learning. Consistent with the Engaged Followership Theory on obedience, participants placed in a pro-scientific mindset more severely harmed the laboratory animal. In a cross-sectional study (N = 351), participants in medical fields endorsed a more pro-scientific attitude than those in paramedical fields, which mediated their support for animal experimentation. Drawing on a representative European sample (N = 31,238), we also confirmed the specificity of this link by controlling for potential demographic and ideological confounds. In a final study (N = 1,598), instrumental harm was shown as mediating the link between a pro-scientific attitude and support for animal experimentation.

Sex, Drugs, and Genes: Illuminating the Moral Condemnation of Recreational Drugs
Annika Karinen et al.
Psychological Science, October 2021, Pages 1582-1591

Over the past decade, evolutionary psychologists have proposed that many moral stances function to promote self-interests. At the same time, behavioral geneticists have demonstrated that many moral stances have genetic bases. We integrated these perspectives by examining how moral condemnation of recreational drug use relates to sexual strategy (i.e., being more vs. less open to sex outside of a committed relationship) in a sample of Finnish twins and siblings (N = 8,118). Twin modeling suggested that genetic factors accounted for 53%, 46%, and 41% of the variance in drug condemnation, sociosexuality, and sexual-disgust sensitivity, respectively. Further, approximately 75% of the phenotypic covariance between drug condemnation and sexual strategy was accounted for by genes, and there was substantial overlap in the genetic effects underlying both drug condemnation and sexual strategy (rg = .41). Results are consistent with the proposal that some moral sentiments are calibrated to promote strategic sexual interests, which arise partially via genetic factors. 

Rights and Responsibilities Are Substitutable Framings That Differentially Affect Judgment
Allon Vishkin & Jeremy Ginges
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Do employers have a responsibility to treat their workers equally or do employees have a right to be treated equally? In common discourse, rights and responsibilities are often used as substitutable framings for the same event, but they may differentially shape judgment. In this investigation, we develop an experimental manipulation of rights versus responsibilities and evaluate whether framing an arrangement between two parties in terms of rights, versus responsibilities, affects people’s judgment. We found that people judged unequal distributions between two parties as less fair when framed in terms of rights than in terms of responsibilities. Furthermore, people judged a rights framing as fairer for an unequal (vs. equal) contractual agreement. Thus, a subtle framing manipulation can increase or decrease people’s sensitivity to unequal distributions. We discuss potential mechanisms for this effect and implications for behavioral law as well as the potential to nudge people’s sensitivity to inequality. 

Horseshoes, hand grenades, and regulatory enforcement: Close experience with potential sanctions and fraud deterrence
Jeremy Douthit, Melanie Millar & Roger White
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, September 2021, Pages 137-148

We investigate the deterrence effect of experience with regulatory enforcement on fraud in a unique natural setting. Using ride-level data on New York City taxicab drivers, we identify drivers who fraudulently overcharge customers and pair them with the outcomes of drivers’ experience with regulatory enforcement (taxi court). We examine whether drivers’ experience with the taxi court, specifically whether the taxi court found them guilty or not guilty of fraud, affects their subsequent fraud. Interestingly, we find that the effect of experience with the regulatory enforcement on the likelihood of future fraud depends on the verdict received. Consistent with an impact bias in drivers’ affective forecasting, drivers who are found guilty (not guilty) are more (less) likely to commit fraud than similar drivers without recent taxi court experience. Our results have implications for academics and policymakers by showing that sometimes the threat of enforcement can be more effective at deterring future fraud than the actual enforcement itself. 

COVID-19 vaccination and subsequent dishonest behavior: Experimental evidence
Yossef Tobol, Erez Siniver & Gideon Yaniv
Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, September 2021, Pages 131–137 


As of the beginning of 2021, the State of Israel, with a population of 9.3 million, had administered more coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine doses than all countries aside from China, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The vaccine is administered in two doses, 21–28 days apart from each other, which are necessary to confer adequate immunity. The present paper reports the results of a field experiment designed to examine the hypothesis that the COVID-19 vaccination stimulates subsequent dishonest behavior. Specifically, people relaxing after receiving the first and second vaccine doses as well as people waiting to receive the first dose were invited to perform a money-rewarding simple task which involves an opportunity to cheat with no possible detection. Before performing the task, subjects filled out a questionnaire regarding the emotions they were experiencing at that moment. We hypothesized that the COVID-19 vaccination primes positive emotions which are known in the literature to promote cheating by increasing cognitive flexibility and lowering self-control. Therefore, we predicted that (a) people vaccinated with the first dose are more likely to subsequently lie than people who have not yet taken the vaccine and (b) people vaccinated with the second dose are more likely to lie than people vaccinated with the first dose or people who have not yet taken the vaccine. The experiment’s results weakly support the first hypothesis but strongly support the second. 

Motivated Moral Outrage Among Meat-Eaters
Hank Rothgerber et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Many meat-eaters experience cognitive dissonance when aware that their eating behaviors contradict their moral values, such as desires to protect the environment or animals from harm. One way in which people morally disengage from their behaviors — and thus avoid dissonance — is to displace responsibility onto others. Aligning with this notion, results of three studies (total N = 1,501) suggest that expressing moral outrage at third-party transgressors reduces dissonance and preserves moral identity among meat-eaters. When participants understood their in-group as responsible for factory farming’s negative impact or read about factory farming’s harms to animals, expressing moral outrage at third-party transgressors reduced guilt and elevated self-rated moral character. Moreover, reflecting on the morally troublesome nature of meat-eating led participants to express more moral outrage at a third-party organization responsible for animal abuse, an effect eliminated by self-affirmation. These findings substantiate moral outrage as a new mechanism to justify meat consumption. 

High cooperation and welfare despite -- and because of -- the threat of antisocial punishments and feuds
David Gordon & Mikael Puurtinen
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, July 2021, Pages 1373–1386

Cooperation can be difficult to sustain when there is a temptation to free-ride on the efforts of others. In experiments, peer punishment often stabilizes cooperation but fails to improve earnings because of the costs associated with punishment. In addition, antisocial use of punishment — punishing cooperators, counterpunishing, and feuding — often leads to lower cooperation and earnings. The current study investigated if powerful individuals — individuals who can punish without cost or who are immune from punishment — police the antisocial use of punishment, thus reducing the undesirable effects of punishment. In order to create ample opportunities for antisocial punishment and identify the motives for the use of punishment, our modified public goods game implemented fixed groups, fixed participant identifiers, 2 punishment stages, and full information about participant actions. The powerful participants with cost-free punishment or immunity punished low contributors more often, and immune participants also punished those who punished cooperators. Intriguingly, we found that whenever all participants could be punished — regardless of the cost of punishing or asymmetry in the cost — cooperation and net earnings reached very high levels. However, participants who were immune cooperated at a markedly low level, reducing earnings in the group. The results show that in an environment with repeated interactions, plenty of information, and everyone being accountable, even inefficient punishment can maintain high cooperation and earnings, but immunity of the powerful leads to corrupt behavior and reduced efficiency. 

The role of genetic essentialism and genetics knowledge in support for eugenics and genetically modified foods
Benjamin Cheung, Anita Schmalor & Steven Heine
PLoS ONE, September 2021

People are regularly exposed to discussions about the role of genes in their lives, despite often having limited understanding about how they operate. The tendency to oversimplify genetic causes, and ascribe them with undue influence is termed genetic essentialism. Two studies revealed that genetic essentialism is associated with support for eugenic policies and social attitudes based in social inequality, and less acceptance of genetically modified foods. These views about eugenics and genetically-modified foods were especially evident among people who had less knowledge about genes, potentially highlighting the value of education in genetics. 

Fostering COVID-19 Safe Behaviors Using Cognitive Dissonance
Logan Pearce & Joel Cooper
Basic and Applied Social Psychology, September-October 2021, Pages 267-282

There is an urgent need to persuade the public to follow behavioral guidelines in order to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Using cognitive dissonance as a guide, the current study’s aim was to increase compliance with coronavirus safety measures, such as social distancing, wearing masks, and getting vaccinated. In Phase 1, participants experienced dissonance by advocating consistent adherence to safety protocols and recalling instances when they did not follow them. Their attitudes and behavioral intentions were measured. A week later, we assessed reported behavior. We found that dissonance participants complied more with guidelines and were more likely to seek vaccination than participants in three non-dissonance control conditions. We conclude by recommending ways of implementing the findings in the current COVID-19 crisis. 

Normative appeals motivate people to contribute to collective action problems more when they invite people to work together toward a common goal
Lauren Howe, Priyanka Carr & Gregory Walton
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, August 2021, Pages 215-238

A common method to promote behavior change, particularly in contexts related to collective action, is to reference a social norm and ask people to comply with it. We argue that such appeals will be more effective when they couch the norm as an invitation to work with others toward a common goal. In six experiments, we found that working-together normative appeals, which invited people to “join in” and “do it together,” increased interest in (Experiments 1, 4, and 5) and actual charitable giving (Experiment 2), reduced paper-towel use in public restrooms (Experiment 3), and increased interest in reducing personal carbon emissions (Experiment 6). By contrast, normative-information appeals, which included the same normative information but no reference to working together, did not affect interest or behavior. Mediation analyses suggest that working-together normative appeals were more effective because they fostered a feeling in participants that they were working together with others, which increased motivation, while inducing less social pressure, which undermined effectiveness. Results show how the very collective nature of collective action problems can be leveraged to promote personal behavior change and help solve societal problems.


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