33 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2008 Last revised: 14 Sep 2008
Date Written: April 2008
Two experiments investigated whether outcomes that violate people's moral standards increase their deviant behavior (the moral spillover effect). In Study 1, participants read about a legal trial in which the outcome supported, opposed or was unrelated to their moral convictions. Relative to when outcomes supported moral convictions, when outcomes opposed moral convictions people judged the outcome to be less fair, were more angry, were less willing to accept the outcome, and were more likely to take a borrowed pen. In Study 2, participants who recalled another person's moral violation were more likely to cheat on an experimental task relative to angry or neutral condition participants. Taken together, results provide evidence for moral spillover: outcomes that violate moral standards increase deviant behavior.
Keywords: moral psychology, legitimacy, compliance, emotion, moral outrage
JEL Classification: K19
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Mullen, Elizabeth and Nadler, Janice, Moral Spillovers: The Effect of Moral Violations on Deviant Behavior (April 2008). Northwestern Law & Econ Research Paper No. 08-03; 3rd Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Papers. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1120444 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1120444