The role of moral knowledge in everyday immorality: What does it matter if I know what is right?

Scott J. Reynolds, Carolyn Dang, Kai Chi Yam, Keith Leavitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

34 Scopus citations

Abstract

In contrast to other well-known cognitive models of moral decision-making, social cognitive theory posits that individuals can disengage from their own moral standards thereby allowing themselves to commit immoral acts. While previous research largely supports the general premise of moral disengagement, we suggest that direct tests of moral disengagement processes and the commensurate diminished role of moral knowledge are conspicuously absent. In five studies, we use multiple methods to capture both knowledge of the immorality of an act and theorized in situ processes of moral disengagement. Ultimately, we find no evidence of the proposed processes associated with moral disengagement. Furthermore, our data suggests that moral knowledge is a key driver of moral behavior in everyday situations and is not easily set aside. We conclude by discussing the implications of this research for theory and practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)124-137
Number of pages14
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Volume123
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

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