Monday, February 25, 2013

Moral status correlation with intentionality

Studies were performed at The Florida State University regarding correspondence bias in the side-effect effect. It is simpler to grasp the objective and hypothesis once the conducted study is explained. A group of people were asked to read this excerpt:

The vice president of a company went to the chairman of the board and said, “We
are thinking of starting a new program. It will help us increase profits, but it will
also help the environment.” The CEO of the board answered, “I don’t care at all
about helping the environment. I just want to make as much profit as I can. Let’s
start the new program.” They started the new program. Sure enough, the
environment was helped.

A second group of people read the same excerpt only instead of the word "help", they read "harm". Participants were questioned about the intentionality of the CEO. The majority of the "help" group responded that the CEO did not intentionally help the environment. However, the majority of the "harm" group said that the CEO intentionally harmed the environment. This has an underlying fundamental attribution error since the participants are assuming a negative characteristic about the CEO but not giving him positive credit for something positive.

A second study was performed based on the first one. This time the participants had to respond with moral judgements about the CEO and rate them on a scale. They also rated his environmental values and in general whether or not he was a good or bad person. The results showed that the participants who read the "help" paragraph rated the CEO as overall a much better person than those who read the "harm" paragraph.

The second study was also attempted with additional description of the CEO as being pro or anti-environment. This second study had a set of participants divided into four groups (pro-environment / help, pro-environment / harm, anti environment / help, or anti-environment / harm) and after a description of the CEO's actions that make him fit into one of the four groups, they had to rate the intentionality of his actions on a scale.

Overall the correlation between environmental/moral values and judgements of intentionality are interesting and certainly depend more on the participants than the fictional CEO. In today's society, caring about the environment is seen as a positive and important characteristic in a person and thus is strongly associated with being seen as a good or bad individual. Additionally, because of the fundamental attribution error, people are more likely to attribute negative intent to the CEO than positive intent- even though it is originally written that his primary concern is profit- not an objective to help or harm the environment. Additionally, this particular study further proved that people assess greater intentionality when the moral status of a person is in agreement with the moral status of an outcome.

Full article:

No comments: