Archive for August 22nd, 2015

August 22, 2015

Moral Credential

high horse

all too human

The moral credential effect is a bias that occurs when a person’s track record as a good egalitarian establishes in them an unconscious ethical certification, endorsement, or license that increases the likelihood of less egalitarian decisions later. This effect occurs even when the audience or moral peer group is unaware of the affected person’s previously established moral credential. For example, individuals who had the opportunity to recruit a woman or African American in one setting were more likely to say later, in a different setting, that a job would be better suited for a man or a Caucasian.

Moral credentials can also be obtained vicariously (i.e., a person may behave as if they themselves have moral credentials after observing someone from a group they identify with making an egalitarian decision). In research that draws on social identity theory it was also found that group membership moderates the effectiveness of moral credentials in mitigating perceptions of prejudice (e.g., displays of moral credentials have more effect between people who share in-group status). In 1878, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote of ‘innocent corruption’ in ‘Human, All Too Human’: ‘In all institutions that do not feel the sharp wind of public criticism (as, for example, in scholarly organizations and senates), an innocent corruption grows up, like a mushroom.’