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Lack of material resources causes harsher moral judgments

Author

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  • Marko Pitesa

    () (MC - Management et Comportement - Grenoble École de Management (GEM))

  • Stefan Thau

    () (INSEAD - INSEAD)

Abstract

This research tested the idea that lack of material resources (e.g., low income) causes people to make harsher moral judgments because lack of material resources is associated with a lower ability to cope with the effects of others' harmful behavior. Consistent with this idea, a large cross-cultural survey (Study 1) found that both chronic (low income) and situational (inflation) lack of material resources were associated with harsher moral judgments. The effect of inflation was stronger for low-income individuals, whom inflation renders relatively more vulnerable. A follow-up experiment (Study 2) caused participants to perceive they lacked material resources by employing different anchors on the scale they used to report their income. The manipulation led to harsher judgments of harmful, but not of non-harmful, transgressions and this effect was explained by a sense of vulnerability. Alternative explanations were excluded. These results demonstrate a functional and contextually situated nature of moral psychology.

Suggested Citation

  • Marko Pitesa & Stefan Thau, 2013. "Lack of material resources causes harsher moral judgments," Working paper serie RMT - Grenoble Ecole de Management hal-00877140, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:gemwpa:hal-00877140
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: http://hal.grenoble-em.com/hal-00877140
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Easterly, William & Fischer, Stanley, 2001. "Inflation and the Poor," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 33(2), pages 160-178, May.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. The economic base of illiberalism
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2013-11-17 19:18:47

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    Keywords

    moral judgments; material resources; income; moral transgressions; moral psychology;

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