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Moral Character Matters. How Act, Actor, and Victim (Facial) Characteristics Impact Moral Judgments

Applicant Walker Mirella
Number 168070
Funding scheme Ambizione
Research institution Fakultät für Psychologie Universität Basel
Institution of higher education University of Basel - BS
Main discipline Psychology
Start/End 01.01.2017 - 31.01.2021
Approved amount 475'734.00
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Keywords (4)

Moral Judgments; Person Perception; Face Modeling; Moral Character

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Moralpsychologische Forschung untersucht, wie Individuen moralische Urteile fällen. Ein wichtiger Befund dieser Forschung ist, dass Individuen in erster Linie die Absichten der handelnden Person und das Resultat ihrer Handlung berücksichtigen, wenn sie beurteilen, ob eine bestimmte Handlung moralisch gut oder schlecht ist.
Lay summary

Inhalt und Ziel des Forschungsprojekts
Die moralpsychologische Forschung geht davon aus, dass in erster Linie Aspekte der Situation – etwa die Absichten der handelnden Person oder das Resultat ihrer Handlungen – bestimmen, ob eine Handlung als moralisch gut oder schlecht beurteilt wird. Im Gegensatz dazu geht die Forschung zur Personenwahrnehmung davon aus, dass Individuen in erster Linie den moralischen Charakter einer Person berücksichtigen bei der Beurteilung ihrer Handlungen. Ziel dieses Projektes ist es, eine Brücke zwischen diesen beiden Forschungsbereichen zu schlagen, indem es sowohl den Einfluss des moralischen Charakters von Handelnden als auch den Einfluss situativer Aspekte auf die Beurteilung von Handlungen untersucht.

Wissenschaftlicher und gesellschaftlicher Kontext
Dieses Projekt nutzt eine kürzlich entwickelte Methode zur Manipulation von Porträts, um den moralischen Charakter auf subtile Art und Weise in die Moralpsychologie einzuführen. Die erwarteten Resultate, dass Schlussfolgerungen von den Porträts auf den moralische Charakter beeinflussen, wie über Personen geurteilt wird, sind relevant für alle Lebensbereiche, in denen Entscheidungen mit weitreichenden Konsequenzen gefällt werden (z.B. im medizinischen Kontext oder im juristischen Kontext).

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 02.12.2016

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Beyond attractiveness: A multi-method approach to study enhancement in self-recognition on the Big Two personality dimensions
WalkerMirella, KellerMatthias, Beyond attractiveness: A multi-method approach to study enhancement in self-recognition on the Big Two personality dimensions, in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
The Basel Face Database: A validated set of photographs reflecting systematic differences in Big Two and Big Five personality dimensions
Walker Mirella, Schönborn Sandro, Greifeneder Rainer, Vetter Thomas, The Basel Face Database: A validated set of photographs reflecting systematic differences in Big Two and Big Five personality dimensions, in Plos One.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Elena Stephan/Bar-Ilan University Israel (Asia)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Abteilung Biologische und Differentielle Psychologie / Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Sherman Lab/University of California, Davis United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Freeman Lab/ New York University United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Graphics and Vision Gruppe / Universität Basel Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
Abteilung Sozialpsychologie Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
17th conference of the Social Psychology Section of the German Psychological Society (FGSP) Talk given at a conference Too cold and too careless: Low conscientiousness and agreeableness increase the risk of getting ostracized 16.09.2019 Köln, Germany Walker Mirella;
21th European Social Cognition Network (ESCON) Talk given at a conference Faces evoking emotions stereotypically triggered by groups: Introducing a refined reverse correlation approach 02.09.2019 Bordeaux, France Walker Mirella;
Invited Colloquium Talk Individual talk Von Schuldzuschreibung bis Selbstwahrnehmung: Der Nutzen von Gesichtsmodellen in der Psychologischen Forschung 04.07.2019 Freiburg i.Br., Germany Walker Mirella;
20th European Social Cognition Network (ESCON) Talk given at a conference Conceptual trait space shapes perceptual trait space 02.09.2018 Köln, Germany Walker Mirella;
Annual Convention of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) Poster Random faces telling stories: Combining a face space approach with reverse correlation to visualize internal representations 01.03.2018 Atlanta, United States of America Walker Mirella;
19th European Social Cognition Network (ESCON) Talk given at a conference Reverse correlation meets face space – Visualizing stereotypes 23.08.2017 Gdansk, Poland Walker Mirella;
EASP General Meeting Poster Reverse Correlation 2.0 - Combining a face space approach with up-to-date computer graphics 05.07.2017 Granada, Spain Walker Mirella;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: print media, online media Die manipulierten Gesichter von Doktor Walker Tageswoche German-speaking Switzerland 2017

Abstract

First encounters are known to strongly influence how individuals perceive others; the power of “first impressions” is even part of collective wisdom represented in proverbs (e.g., “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”) and fiction. One particular prominent source affecting first impressions is the human face. Individuals use facial information to instantly and automatically build first impressions about the personality of others (e.g., Bruce & Young, 1986; Ito & Urland, 2003; Willis & Todorov, 2006). These persistent personality inferences can be mapped in a 2D space defined by the two fundamental dimensions trustworthiness and dominance (Oosterhof & Todorov, 2008). Trustworthiness and dominance are unique dimensions in that they are informative about whether a person has good or bad intentions (i.e., trustworthiness) and whether he or she is able to act on these intentions (i.e., dominance). Interestingly, a person perception perspective suggests that individuals have a strong desire to infer other’s moral character from whatever cue might be informative, whereas in moral psychological research, moral character plays a negligible role. Building on normative philosophical theories of morality, Moral Psychology focuses on acts rather than actors in assessing the morality of an action (Pizarro & Tannenbaum, 2011; Tannenbaum, Uhlmann, & Diermeier, 2011; Uhlmann, Pizarro, & Diermeier, 2015). Accordingly, it suggests that the morality of a moral action is evaluated based on the assessment of the actors' intentions and goals in this given situation as well as the outcome of the action. Thereby, Moral Psychology disregards the fundamental social psychological finding that perceivers tend to overestimate stable actor characteristics and underestimate characteristics of a given situation in explaining actions (Heider, 1958; Ross, 1977) and the strong motivation of individuals to keep track on the moral character of others, for example by inferring it from their appearance (Oosterhof & Todorov, 2008). The proposed project aims to bridge this gap by investigating the impact of moral character (derived from facial appearance) on the evaluation of moral actions comprehensively. On a theoretical level, the proposed project will advance Moral Psychological research and close a gap between Moral and Social Psychology as asked for lately (Pizarro & Tannenbaum, 2011; Tannenbaum et al., 2011; Uhlmann et al., 2015). This is done by taking moral actions and moral character into account in addressing the psychological question of how moral decisions are made. On an applied level, the here expected findings that the moral character derived from such invalid cues as an actor’s or a victim’s appearance impacts moral judgments and actions, will be relevant for various areas in which highly consequential decisions about the likelihood of a person’s survival (e.g., medical context) or of the quality of a person’s life (e.g., legal context) are made. On a methodological level, the here proposed studies will demonstrate that using the Basel Face Model to manipulate perceived character unremarkably and systematically can be beneficial in various research fields in which the perception of one isolated aspect of personality and it’s consequences on judgments and actions is addressed.
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