Looking for honesty: The primary role of morality (vs. sociability and competence) in information gathering



Research on the two fundamental dimensions of social judgment, namely warmth and competence, has shown that warmth has a primary and a dominant role in information gathering about others. In two studies we examined whether the sociability and morality components of warmth play distinct roles in such a process. Study 1 (N = 60) investigated which traits were mostly selected when forming impressions about others. The results showed that, regardless of the task goal, traits related to morality and sociability were differently processed. Furthermore, participants were more interested in obtaining information about morality than about sociability when asked to form a global impression about others. Study 2 (N = 98) explored the adoption of asymmetric/symmetric strategies when asking questions to make inferences on others. As predicted, participants adopted an asymmetrically disconfirming strategy on morality traits, while they looked for more symmetrical evidence on sociability or competence traits. Overall, our findings indicated a distinct and a dominant role of the moral component of warmth in the information-gathering process. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.