Mentor: Louisa Egan Brady
Moral credentialing describes how humans keep track of the amount of moral and helping actions they perform. According to theories of moral credentialing, once someone feels like they’ve done enough good, they then have leeway to be immoral. This has been previous established in adults, but not in children. Preliminary research in children shows a different phenomenon. Unlike adults, the more moral actions they perform the more moral actions they are willing to do.
This study will compliment other experiments done, including earlier studies done by Professor Egan Brad. Earlier in the year, Egan Brad preformed similar experiments on children but with one crucial difference. Before starting the task for moral credentialing, the children were asked to vocalize their moral norms. There has not been a study that looks at adults voicing their moral norms before engaging in moral credentialing experiments. By speaking of your morals, this may make them more salient, thus it could lead to different results than in previous experiments on moral credentialing in adults.
This summer, adults will be tested using the same task as the children, and they will be asked about their moral norms beforehand. The task will include completing the children’s board game Rush Hour before entering a task to test their morality after either helping the experimenter or not. There will be two conditions for the participants; participants who think they are helping the experimenter and those who do not. The task after Rush Hour is a dictator game, in which the participant must split their reward (or not) with others who don’t get a chance to do the experiment. For children, it was ten stickers that the kids could keep, give away, or split them. Adults did the same task but with quarters. The adults will be in privacy while sorting the coins, so they do not feel as if they are being watched. The numbers of coins that are taken or given away in comparison with their previous moral norms they voiced earlier in the experiment will begin to explore how moral credentialing and personal moral norms are connected.
This research has not been widely explored before, so it’d be vital for farther studies to see if people stay morally consistent if primed about their moral norms before assessing their moral credentialing. If they still engage in immoral actions after asserting their personal knowledge of morals, than it’d open up new avenues of research pertaining to why their personal standards shift when faced with reality of an immoral situation.