Moral balance: The effect of prior behaviour on decision in moral conflict

Mordecai Nisan, Gaby Horenczyk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Two studies examined predictions from the ‘moral balance’ model, according to which moral decisions are affected by evaluation of the actor's moral status based on his/her recent moral history. It was found that people are more willing to allow a deviation to, and believe that this should generate less guilt in, a person who generally behaves morally than in one who generally behaves immorally. It was also found that an unworthy act by a person (self or other) who has recently behaved morally is evaluated less severely than the same act performed by one who has recently behaved immorally. This trend for normative judgements is contrary to that found for descriptive judgements: a person who has recently behaved immorally is perceived as more likely to choose to act improperly and to feel less guilty. This discrepancy between normative and descriptive judgements is analysed in terms of the distinction between attributions to trait as opposed to effort, to trait as opposed to situation, and between those made from the perspective of actors as opposed to observers. 1990 The British Psychological Society

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)29-42
Number of pages14
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1990


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