Rules or consequences? The role of ethical mind-sets in moral dynamics

Psychol Sci. 2013 Apr;24(4):482-8. doi: 10.1177/0956797612457376. Epub 2013 Feb 27.


Recent research on the dynamics of moral behavior has documented two contrasting phenomena-moral consistency and moral balancing. Moral balancing refers to the phenomenon whereby behaving ethically or unethically decreases the likelihood of engaging in the same type of behavior again later. Moral consistency describes the opposite pattern-engaging in ethical or unethical behavior increases the likelihood of engaging in the same type of behavior later on. The three studies reported here supported the hypothesis that individuals' ethical mind-set (i.e., outcome-based vs. rule-based) moderates the impact of an initial ethical or unethical act on the likelihood of behaving ethically on a subsequent occasion. More specifically, an outcome-based mind-set facilitated moral balancing, and a rule-based mind-set facilitated moral consistency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude*
  • Behavior*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Ethics*
  • Humans
  • Morals*