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Immorality East and West: Are Immoral Behaviors Especially Harmful, or Especially Uncivilized?

Buchtel, EE, Guan, Y, Peng, Q, Su, Y, Sang, B, Chen, SX and Bond, MH (2015) Immorality East and West: Are Immoral Behaviors Especially Harmful, or Especially Uncivilized? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41 (10). pp. 1382-1394.

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What makes some acts immoral? While Western theories of morality often define harmful behaviors as centrally immoral, whether this is applicable to other cultures is still under debate. In particular, Confucianism emphasizes civility as fundamental to moral excellence. We designed three studies examining how the word “immoral” is used by Chinese and Westerners. Layperson-generated examples were used to examine cultural differences in which behaviors are called “immoral” (Study 1, N = 609; Study 2, N = 480), and whether “immoral” behaviors were best characterized as particularly harmful vs. uncivilized (Study 3, N = 443). Results suggest that Chinese were more likely to use the word “immoral” for behaviors that were uncivilized, rather than exceptionally harmful; while Westerners were more likely to link immorality tightly to harm. More research into lay concepts of morality is needed to inform theories of moral cognition and improve understanding of human conceptualizations of social norms.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of Hospitality and Tourism Management
Authors :
Buchtel, EE
Guan, Y
Peng, Q
Su, Y
Sang, B
Chen, SX
Bond, MH
Date : 10 October 2015
DOI : 10.1177/0146167215595606
Additional Information : Published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41 (10), 2015. Copyright 2015 Sage Publications.
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 30 Sep 2015 15:11
Last Modified : 30 Sep 2015 15:11

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