A matter of perspective: why past moral behavior can sometimes encourage and other times discourage future moral striving

Authors

  • Moritz Susewind,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, Aachen University
    • Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Moritz Susewind, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, RWTH Aachen University, Neuenhofer Weg 21, 52074 Aachen, Germany. E-mail: msusewind@ukaachen.de

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  • Erik Hoelzl

    1. Department of Economic and Social Psychology, University of Cologne
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Abstract

In this paper, we investigate the role of different perspectives people take on their past moral and nonmoral behavior. Across two experiments, we show that when people focus on progress toward personal goals, past moral behavior leads to less future moral striving compared to past nonmoral behavior. However, when people focus on commitment toward personal goals, past moral behavior tends to lead to more future moral striving compared to past nonmoral behavior. Our results integrate seemingly contradictive empirical evidence from past research, relying on the overarching theoretical framework of goal regulation theory.

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