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Moral Illusions
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Economics. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. (JEDI Lab)
2022 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)Alternative title
Moraliska illusioner (Swedish)
Abstract [en]

Just as optical illusions can trick our visual senses, our moral sense can be misguided by moral illusions. In this thesis, I investigate whether moral illusions can arise from mental shortcuts (availability bias), cognitive biases (attribution bias), contextual factors (possibility to avoid information), and decision rules (democratic decision-making).

The results in the thesis provide two main findings. First, I find that moral illusions occur in competitive situations where many people compete for the same reward. In Essay I, I find that inaccurate beliefs about procedural fairness can motivate people to act selfishly, and that simple information cues about procedural fairness can reduce such behavior. In Essay II, I demonstrate that increased confidence has polarizing effects on meritocratic beliefs and that success (as opposed to failure) decreases preferences for redistribution. Second, the results show that moral behavior can be surprisingly similar across contextual factors. In Essay III, I find that the possibility to avoid information about other people’s the efforts has limited effects on selfish behavior. In Essay IV, the results show no evidence that democratic decision-making, as opposed to individual decision making, increases selfish and immoral behavior.

The results in the thesis suggest that our moral sense have many similarities with our visual perception. In most cases, it is not significantly affected by contextual factors. However, when the information is vague or uncertain, the brain sometimes fills in missing information and creates images that does not match with reality. The analogy between optical illusions and moral illusion can help us to better understand our own, and others’, moral behavior. We may not always agree with everyone’s interpretations of reality, but we can understand where they come from.

Abstract [sv]

Precis som optiska illusioner kan lura ögat, kan vårt moraliska sinne vilseledas av moraliska illusioner. I denna avhandling undersöker jag om moraliska illusioner kan uppstå av mentala genvägar (tillgänglighetsbias), kognitiva biaser (attributionsbias), kontextuella faktorer (möjlighet till att undvika information) och beslutsregler (demokratiskt beslutsfattande).

Avhandlingens huvudresultat kan sammanfattas i två punkter. För det första finner jag att moraliska illusioner förekommer i konkurrensutsatta situationer där många människor tävlar om samma pris. I Studie I finner jag att felaktiga uppfattningar om procedurrättvisa kan motivera människor att agera själviskt, och att information om procedurrättvisa kan minska sådant beteende. Jag visar även att självförtroende har polariserande effekter på meritokratiska övertygelser, och att erfarenheten av framgång (i kontrast till misslyckande) minskar preferenser för omfördelning av resurser (Studie II). För det andra visar resultaten på att moraliskt beteende även kan vara förvånansvärts lika över kontextuella faktorer. Jag finner även att möjligheten att undvika information som om andras ansträngningar har begränsade effekter på själviskt beteende (Studie III). Dessutom hittar jag inget empiriskt stöd för att demokratiskt beslutsfattande, jämfört med individuellt beslutsfattande, ökar omoraliskt och själviskt beteende (Studie IV).

Avhandlingens övergripande resultat visar att moraliskt beteende har många likheter med vår visuella perception. Oftast påverkas den inte nämnvärt av kontextuella faktorer. När informationen däremot är vag eller osäker, kan vi ibland fylla i, eller hitta på, vad det är vi ser. Analogin mellan optiska illusioner och moraliska illusioner kan hjälpa oss att bättre förstå vårt eget och andras moraliska beteende. Vi kanske inte alltid håller med om varandras tolkningar av verkligheten, men vi kan förstå vad de kommer ifrån.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2022. , p. 13
Series
Linköping Studies in Arts and Sciences, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 838
Keywords [en]
Selfish behavior, Preferences for redistribution, Moral behavior
Keywords [sv]
Själviskt beteende, Preferenser för omfördelning, Moraliskt beteende
National Category
Economics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-187667DOI: 10.3384/9789179293963ISBN: 9789179293956 (print)ISBN: 9789179293963 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-187667DiVA, id: diva2:1688469
Public defence
2022-09-09, A1, A Building, Campus Valla, Linköping, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Lars Hierta Memorial FoundationHelge Ax:son Johnsons stiftelse Available from: 2022-08-18 Created: 2022-08-18 Last updated: 2022-08-18Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Losing sense of fairness: How information about a level playing field reduces selfish behavior
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Losing sense of fairness: How information about a level playing field reduces selfish behavior
2021 (English)In: Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, ISSN 0167-2681, E-ISSN 1879-1751, Vol. 190, p. 66-75Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Inaccurate beliefs about procedural fairness often motivate people to act in self-serving and selfish manners. We investigate whether information about a level playing field might mitigate such behaviors. In a pre-registered behavioral experiment ( n = 4 4 4), using a competitive and real-effort task, we manipulate whether participants are informed about the fairness of a competition or not. Following the competition, participants (who either won or lost the competition) decided how to distribute earnings between themselves and their opponent. We show that informing participants about the fairness of the competition reduces selfish behavior among losers, while behavior among winners remains unaffected. Moreover, we show that losers who were not informed about the fairness of the competition incorrectly viewed it as having been unfairly stacked against them (i.e., believing that they encountered significantly more difficult tasks than their opponents). Our findings suggest that information about a level playing field reduces selfish behavior and is important for understanding when and why motivated reasoning about procedural fairness helps people uphold a positive self-image. (c) 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/ )

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2021
Keywords
Procedural fairness; Headwinds; Selfish behavior; Unethical behavior; Motivated reasoning; Pre-registered experiment
National Category
Health Care Service and Management, Health Policy and Services and Health Economy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-180521 (URN)10.1016/j.jebo.2021.07.014 (DOI)000704802000005 ()
Available from: 2021-10-25 Created: 2021-10-25 Last updated: 2022-08-18

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