Thursday, August 13, 2020

Recent studies point to a “cynical” view of social perceivers who assume that even moderately moral people could engage in moderately immoral behaviors; this view seems to vary among cultures

Patrice Rusconi, Simona Sacchi, Marco Brambilla, Roberta Capellini, and Paolo Cherubini (2020). Being Honest and Acting Consistently: Boundary Conditions of the Negativity Effect in the Attribution of Morality. Social Cognition: Vol. 38, No. 2, pp. 146-178.

Abstract: Morality, which refers to characteristics such as trustworthiness and honesty, has a primary role in social perception and judgment. A negativity effect characterizes the morality dimension, whereby negative information is weighed more than positive information in trait attribution and impression formation. This article reviews the literature on the negativity effect in trait attribution and impression formation. We examine the main boundary conditions of the negativity effect by considering relevant moderators, such as behavior consistency and evaluative extremity, level of categorization, and measurement type as well as some theoretical and empirical inconsistencies in the literature. We also review recent studies showing that social perceivers hold negative assumptions about people's morality. We outline future directions for research on the negativity effect that should consider trait extremity, use alternative measures to the perceived frequency of behaviors, introduce more precise definitions of relevant constructs, such as diagnosticity, and test different schemata of trait-behavior relations.

Culture and Historical Period.
Unlike previous models’ assumption that social perceivers hold moderately positive expectations about other people’s behaviors (Fiske, 1980; Helson, 1947, 1948; Jones & Davis, 1965; Sherif & Sherif, 1967), the recent studies by Meindl et al. (2016) and Rusconi et al. (2017) point to a “cynical” view of social perceivers who assume that even moderately moral people could engage in moderately immoral behaviors (e.g., Rusconi et al., 2017). A possible interpretation of this discrepancy is that the perceivers’ assumptions about other people’s morality vary across culture and time. A systematic analysis of the influence of cultural factors is needed as research in this area has been conducted in Western countries (e.g., Reeder et al., 1982; Rusconi et al., 2017; Skowronski & Carlston, 1987, 1992; Tausch et al., 2007). Rusconi et al. (2017) found the same pattern of results, although with a different magnitude, in an Italian and an American sample (Rusconi et al., 2017, Study 4). It is thus possible that more pronounced differences can be found when comparing Western as opposed to non-Western participants given the different consideration of situational information (e.g., Morris & Peng, 1994) as well as conceptualizations of morality (e.g., Shweder, Mahapatra, & Miller, 1987; Wojciszke, Bazinska, & Jaworski, 1998, footnote 2) across societies.