Repeatedly encountered descriptions of wrongdoing seem more true but less unethical: Evidence in a naturalistic setting

Pillai, R M, Fazio, L K and Effron, D (2023) Repeatedly encountered descriptions of wrongdoing seem more true but less unethical: Evidence in a naturalistic setting. Psychological Science, 34 (8). pp. 863-874. ISSN 0956-7976 OPEN ACCESS


When news about moral transgressions “goes viral,” the same person may repeatedly encounter identical reports about a wrongdoing. In a longitudinal experiment (N = 607 US-based
MTurkers), we show that these repeated encounters can affect moral judgments. As participants went about their lives, we text-messaged them news headlines describing corporate wrongdoings
(e.g., a cosmetics company harming animals). After 15 days, they rated these wrongdoings as less unethical than new wrongdoings. Extending prior laboratory research, these findings reveal
that repetition can have a lasting effect on moral judgments in naturalistic settings, that affect plays a key role, and that increasing the number of repetitions generally makes moral judgments
more lenient. Repetition also made fictitious descriptions of wrongdoing seem truer, connecting this moral repetition effect with past work on the illusory truth effect. The more times we hear
about a wrongdoing, the more we may believe it – but the less we may care.

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Item Type: Article
Subject Areas: Organisational Behaviour
Additional Information:

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program under Grant No. 1937963. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. The experiment was funded by a grant to the third author from the Center for the Science of Moral Understanding at UNC Chapel Hill.
All data, materials, and additional analyses are available online at the project’s OSF site, along with our preregistration of the analyses and sample size:

Funder Name: National Science Foundation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Date Deposited: 17 Jul 2023 12:53
Date of first compliant deposit: 23 Jun 2023
Last Modified: 26 May 2024 01:47

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