Gender Differences in Emotion Explain Women’s Lower Immoral Intentions and Harsher Moral Condemnation

Sarah J. Ward, Laura A. King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Why do men view morally questionable behaviors as more permissible than women do? Five studies investigated emotional factors as explanations for gender differences in moral decision-making. In Study 1 (N = 324), gender differences in perceptions of moral wrongness were explained by guilt and shame proneness. Studies 2a and 2b (combined N = 562) demonstrated that instructions to adopt an unemotional perspective (vs. standard instructions) led women to have higher immoral intentions, no longer lower than men’s, as they were in the control group. Studies 3 and 4 (N = 834) showed that men expected immoral actions to result in higher positive and lower self-conscious moral emotions than women do. Study 4 (N = 424) showed that these emotional expectancies account for gender differences in immoral intentions. Study 5 (N = 450) showed that women—but not men—experience heightened self-conscious moral emotions and regret when recalling past transgressions done for personal gain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)653-669
Number of pages17
JournalPersonality and social psychology bulletin
Volume44
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • emotion
  • gender
  • moral emotions
  • morality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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