Are You Morally Superior?

Posted on February 1, 2017

Photo: flickr

The self-enhancement effect is commonly seen in regards to moral matters. Things like honesty and respectability is rated much higher in self-evaluations in comparison to ratings on other people. While moderate levels self-righteousness is healthy, too much of it can be destructive. It can feed into egotism and narcissism, reduce our willingness to cooperate with others, and can even lead to intolerance.

Researchers Ben Tappin and Ryan McKay from the University of London studied possible explanations for the self-enhancement effect. They discovered that higher self-ratings on moral characteristics come from trait desirability. That is, the greater the desire to have a certain trait, that more likely one is to rate themselves higher on the scale. For example, if I value to the trait of honesty, I would likely rate myself higher on an honesty scale, even though I may not be as truthful as I say I am.

Tappin and McKay also discovered why the self-enhancement effect is seen more with moral characteristics. They found that people are just more irrational when it comes to moral judgments. This irrationality thus causes people to give themselves higher ratings.

Overall, moral superiority has its concerns. If people think they are better than they behave, it could lead to unjustified reasoning for immoral acts they commit. It could also cause people, as they believe others are less honest and trustworthy, to become more skeptical. So, be more aware of your actions and thoughts. In everyday life, remember to apply modesty.

Source material from Scientific American

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