Something To Rely On. The Influence of Stable and Fleeting Drivers on Moral Behavior

Gijs Houwelingen

Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral ThesisInternal

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In virtually any situation we are bound to encounter short-lived influences that lure us to act in a certain way. The influence of such ‘fleeting drivers’ may or may not be in line our long-term goals and commitments (‘stable drivers’). Moral behaviour in particular often requires the ability to overcome the influence of fleeting drivers (e.g. self-interest) as well as to act on stable ones (e.g. moral principles). This dissertation is devoted to the question what determines the relative influence of both these types of influence upon our moral behaviours. I give a perhaps somewhat unlikely answer: cognitive abstraction, or ‘construal level’. Abstract cognition (high construal level) allows us to mentally disengage from the ‘here’ and ‘now’ and therefore quells the influence of fleeting drivers. Concrete cognition (low construal level), on the other hand, enhances the influence of fleeting drivers. High construal level is therefore associated with behaviour that is more strongly driver by abstract moral principles, such as moral norms. Low construal level is associated with behaviour that is more strongly driven by situational factors. I show this to be true for several different forms of moral behaviour, including cooperation, punishment and trust restoration.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • De Cremer, Supervisor
  • van Dijke, Marius, Supervisor
  • van Tulder, Rob, Doctoral committee member
  • Stam, Daan, Doctoral committee member
  • Desmet, Pieter, Doctoral committee member
Award date9 Jan 2015
Place of PublicationRotterdam
Print ISBNs9789058923905
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2015

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