Moral prototypes and moral behavior: Specific effects on emotional precursors of moral behavior and on moral behavior by the activation of moral prototypes

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Abstract

The present studies investigated the extent to which three basic moral prototypes, “just,” “brave”, and “caring”, are related to moral, prosocial behavior. In five studies, we tested (a) whether people would associate three basic types of moral behavior (helping behavior, moral courage, and heroism) with three moral prototypes, and (b) whether specific emotional precursors of moral behavior and moral behavior itself could be promoted by activating the respective moral prototype. As expected, Studies 1–3 revealed that people associated helping behavior with the caring prototype, moral courage with the just prototype, and heroism with the brave prototype. Studies 4 and 5 showed that the activation of the three prototypes differentially influenced emotional precursors of the three types of moral behavior (Study 4) as well as actual moral behavior (Study 5). Thus, the five studies revealed that people associate different moral behaviors with different moral prototypes and that a certain moral behavior can be activated by the priming of the related prototype. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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