Self-referencing prioritizes moral character on perceptual matching


Evidence for the prioritization of moral information in cognitive processes is mixed. We examined this question using a series of eleven experiments where participants first learned associations between moral characters and geometric shapes and then performed simple speed tasks. In the first six experiments, we tested and validated prioritized responses to good characters over bad and neutral characters. To pin down the processes that are critical to the prioritization effects, in the remaining five experiments, we examined two opposing hypotheses the valence hypothesis suggests that a general positivity bias towards all underpins the effects, while the self-binding account posits that self-referencing, rather than other-referencing is the fundamental driver of the effects. The data support the latter. Together, these results show a robust prioritization effect of good character through self-referencing processes, indicating the innate connection between morality and oneself and how humans use self-reference to explore the world and learn morality.

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