Doing good vs. avoiding bad in prosocial choice: a refined test and extension of the morality preference hypothesis

Tappin, Ben and Capraro, Valerio ORCID logoORCID: (2018) Doing good vs. avoiding bad in prosocial choice: a refined test and extension of the morality preference hypothesis. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 79 . pp. 64-70. ISSN 0022-1031 [Article] (doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2018.06.005)

PDF - Final accepted version (with author's formatting)
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0.

Download (503kB) | Preview


Prosociality is fundamental to human social life, and, accordingly, much research has attempted to explain human prosocial behavior. Capraro and Rand (Judgment and Decision Making, 13, 99-111, 2018) recently provided experimental evidence that prosociality in anonymous, one-shot interactions (such as Prisoner’s Dilemma and Dictator Game experiments) is not driven by outcome-based social preferences – as classically assumed – but by a generalized morality preference for “doing the right thing”. Here we argue that the key experiments reported in Capraro and Rand (2018) comprise prominent methodological confounds and open questions that bear on influential psychological theory. Specifically, their design confounds: (i) preferences for efficiency with self-interest; and (ii) preferences for action with preferences for morality. Furthermore, their design fails to dissociate the preference to do “good” from the preference to avoid doing “bad”. We thus designed and conducted a preregistered, refined and extended test of the morality preference hypothesis (N=801). Consistent with this hypothesis, our findings indicate that prosociality in the anonymous, one-shot Dictator Game is driven by preferences for doing the morally right thing. Inconsistent with influential psychological theory, however, our results suggest the preference to do “good” was as potent as the preference to avoid doing “bad” in this case.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > Business School > Economics
Item ID: 25709
Notes on copyright: © 2018. This author's accepted manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Valerio Capraro
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2018 12:15
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 19:32

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Activity Overview
6 month trend
6 month trend

Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.