Golden Rules

Kevin Lewis

January 19, 2021

Power decreases the moral condemnation of disgust-inducing transgressions
Marlon Mooijman et al.
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, November 2020, Pages 79-92


Across seven studies (five preregistered), we show that power reduces the degree to which people morally condemn transgressions that elicit disgust. This effect is explained by power reducing the subjective experience of disgust instead of the categorization of behaviors as disgusting. Power does not reliably reduce other negative emotions besides disgust and the impact of power on disgust and moral judgment is attenuated when participants are instructed to appraise impure behaviors as dangerous. These findings challenge the idea that power always increases the severity of moral judgments, shed light on the specific mechanisms by which power colors our judgments of moral right and wrong, and expand theorizing on the impact of power on emotions and moral judgment.

Greater Male Variability in Cooperation: Meta-Analytic Evidence for an Evolutionary Perspective
Christian Thöni, Stefan Volk & Jose Cortina
Psychological Science, January 2021, Pages 50-63


Do men and women differ systematically in their cooperation behaviors? Researchers have long grappled with this question, and studies have returned equivocal results. We developed an evolutionary perspective according to which men are characterized by greater intrasex variability in cooperation as a result of sex-differentiated psychological adaptations. We tested our hypothesis in two meta-analyses. The first involved the raw data of 40 samples from 23 social-dilemma studies with 8,123 participants. Findings provided strong support for our perspective. Whereas we found that the two sexes do not differ in average cooperation levels, men are much more likely to behave either selfishly or altruistically, whereas women are more likely to be moderately cooperative. We confirmed our findings in a second meta-analytic study of 28 samples from 23 studies of organizational citizenship behavior with 13,985 participants. Our results highlight the importance of taking intrasex variability into consideration when studying sex differences in cooperation and suggest important future research directions.

Right-wing authoritarians aren't very funny: RWA, personality, and creative humor production
Paul Silvia, Alexander Christensen & Katherine Cotter
Personality and Individual Differences, forthcoming


Right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) has well-known links with humor appreciation, such as enjoying jokes that target deviant groups, but less is known about RWA and creative humor production—coming up with funny ideas oneself. A sample of 186 young adults completed a measure of RWA, the HEXACO-100, and 3 humor production tasks that involved writing funny cartoon captions, creating humorous definitions for quirky concepts, and completing joke stems with punchlines. The humor responses were scored by 8 raters and analyzed with many-facet Rasch models. Latent variable models found that RWA had a large, significant effect on humor production (β = −0.47 [−0.65, −0.30], p < .001): responses created by people high in RWA were rated as much less funny. RWA's negative effect on humor was smaller but still significant (β = −0.25 [−0.49, −0.01], p = .044) after controlling for Openness to Experience (β = 0.39 [0.20, 0.59], p < .001) and Conscientiousness (β = −0.21 [−0.41, −0.02], p = .029). Taken together, the findings suggest that people high in RWA just aren't very funny.

Cross-national CCTV footage shows low victimization risk for bystander interveners in public conflicts
Lasse Suonperä Liebst et al.
Psychology of Violence, January 2021, Pages 11–18

Method: Data were a cross-national sample of 93 surveillance camera recordings of real-life public disputes, capturing the potential victimizations of 417 intervening and 636 nonintervening bystanders.

Results: Data showed that interveners were rarely physically harmed — at a rate of 3.6% — and noninterveners were virtually never victimized. Confirmatory regression results showed that conflict party affiliation was a moderately robust predictor of bystander victimization. The gender of the intervener was a highly fragile risk factor. More severe conflicts were not associated with a higher victimization likelihood.

Embracing the Dark Side? Testing the Socialization of a Maximizing Mindset
Eli Spiegelman
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming


Previous literature suggests an “economist effect”: business and economics students behave more like Homo economicus than do those from other disciplines. Does this represent selection of selfish maximizers into the disciplines, or a causal effect of study? We argue that common findings that behavior gets no “worse” over time represent overly simplistic tests. Our experiment investigates changes not just in behavior, but also in how participants feel about this behavior. Although we replicate the previous behavioral result, we find evidence that students learn to (1) attach less‐negative normative weight to maximizing behavior, and (2) employ greater sophistication in its implementation.

Status Gains versus Status Losses: Loss Aversion and Deviance
Kyle Thomas & Holly Nguyen
Justice Quarterly, forthcoming


The relationship between associating with (non)deviant peers and one’s own delinquent tendencies is often attributed to the motivation for positive reinforcement and status attainment. Guided by prospect theory and loss aversion, we assert that there is an alternative mechanism through which individuals conform to peer influence – to prevent loss of status for not conforming to the peer group. We surveyed over 1,200 college students at multiple universities across the United States and randomly provided them with hypothetical scenarios related to fighting, driving drunk, and using marijuana where the social consequences were framed as either gains or losses in status. Respondents reported a greater willingness to engage in both deviance and non-deviance when the social consequences were framed as status losses compared to status gains. Our findings are supportive of loss aversion and we advocate for further research that merges individual decision making and peer influence.

Gratitude facilitates obedience: New evidence for the social alignment perspective
Eddie Tong et al.
Emotion, forthcoming


We report four studies that tested the hypothesis that gratitude increases obedience. Four experimental studies (N = 623) found that participants who were induced to feel gratitude obeyed to a greater extent a command to grind worms in a grinder than those feeling neutral. These novel findings demonstrate that gratitude can encourage obeying instructions to exact physical harm, violating moral principles of care. Grateful participants obeyed both benefactors and nonbenefactors. Induced happiness and admiration did not produce the same effect and we found evidence using a manipulation-of-mediator method that the need for social harmony played a mediating role. The findings suggest that gratitude can make a person more vulnerable to social influence, including obeying commands to perform an ethically questionable act.

Gratitude reduces consumption of depleting resources
Shanyu Kates & David DeSteno
Emotion, forthcoming


Sustaining finite public resources presents a dilemma between acting in self-interest for present benefit versus working toward long-term collective gain. Given gratitude’s links to prosociality and self-control, the present studies investigated whether gratitude would promote sustainable resource extraction under conditions of rapidly depleting resources. In Study 1 (N = 155), participants were randomly assigned to experience an emotional state (gratitude or neutral) prior to playing a resource dilemma game in which the common pool was manipulated to indicate either a sustained or depleting resource status. Neutral participants increased their point taking when the pool was depleting compared with when it was sustained; however, this pattern was not observed for grateful participants. Study 2 (N = 224) replicated these findings while also showing the effect of gratitude to be distinct from happiness. These findings show that gratitude, as opposed to a general positive emotional state, buffers against overtaking in resource dilemmas and suggests that this emotion may be useful in promoting sustainable behavior.

Balancing Prosocial Effort Across Social Categories: Mental Accounting Heuristics in Helping Decisions
Johanna Peetz & Andrea Howard
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming


Three studies examine whether individuals might use mental accounting heuristics in helping decisions, budgeting their prosocial effort in similar ways to how money is budgeted. In a hypothetical scenario study (N = 283), participants who imagined that they previously helped someone of a specific social category (e.g., “family,” “colleagues”) were less willing to help someone of that category again. Similarly, when reporting actual instances of day-to-day help in a diary study (N = 443), having helped more than usual in a social category yesterday was associated with less effort and less time spent on helping in the same category today. In contrast, helping more than usual in other social categories did not reduce helping today. Finally, a scenario study (N = 489) suggested that the mental accounting effect in helping decisions may, in part, be explained by perceived utility of help (helping others in the same social category is seen as less rewarding).

Do truth-telling oaths improve honesty in crowd-working?
Nicolas Jacquemet et al.
PLoS ONE, January 2021


This study explores whether an oath to honesty can reduce both shirking and lying among crowd-sourced internet workers. Using a classic coin-flip experiment, we first confirm that a substantial majority of Mechanical Turk workers both shirk and lie when reporting the number of heads flipped. We then demonstrate that lying can be reduced by first asking each worker to swear voluntarily on his or her honor to tell the truth in subsequent economic decisions. Even in this online, purely anonymous environment, the oath significantly reduced the percent of subjects telling “big” lies (by roughly 27%), but did not affect shirking. We also explore whether a truth-telling oath can be used as a screening device if implemented after decisions have been made. Conditional on flipping response, MTurk shirkers and workers who lied were significantly less likely to agree to an ex-post honesty oath. Our results suggest oaths may help elicit more truthful behavior, even in online crowd-sourced environments.


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