Does moral cleansing moderate the effect of evolutionary altruism on helping intention? An exploratory study
journal contributionposted on 2013-01-01, 00:00 authored by Alexa Hayley, Lucille Zinkiewicz
There is strong evidence for social evolutionary motivations for helping (e.g., reciprocal altruism) and also growing support for the influence of the social cognitive theory of moral cleansing on prosociality. Where the former motivation is interpersonal, the latter is intrapersonal. This experimental study hypothesized that, in addition to main effects of evolutionary altruism and moral cleansing on helping intention, an interaction would occur between these theoretical motivations. Using three situational helping scenarios as dependent measures, the effect of participants’ morally-valenced recalled behavior (moral/immoral/achievement/failure) and the effect of their social proximity to a helping target (cousin/colleague/stranger) on helping intention was determined. Overall, 616 Australian participants (90.1% female) completed the online experiment. Two-way ANOVA demonstrated a consistent main effect of social proximity on helping intention across all three helping scenarios, supporting evolutionary social psychological explanations for helping. However, instead of moral self-regulation effects, moral identity consistency effects were induced by the moral behavior recall manipulation. A main effect of behaviour recall on helping intention occurred, with moral recall increasing helping intention. The problem of theoretical ambiguity regarding moral identity consistency and moral self-regulation is discussed, as is the useful role of null result publications in informing effective experimental design.