Moral credential

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The moral credential effect is a bias that occurs when a person's track record as a good egalitarian establishes in them an unconscious ethical certification, endorsement, or license that increases the likelihood of less egalitarian decisions later. This effect occurs even when the audience or moral peer group is unaware of the affected person's previously established moral credential. For example, individuals who had the opportunity to recruit a woman or African American in one setting were more likely to say later, in a different setting, that a job would be better suited for a man or a Caucasian.[1] Similar effects also appear to occur when a person observes another person from a group they identify with making an egalitarian decision.[2]

Group membership[edit]

It has been found that moral credentials can be obtained vicariously. That is, a person will behave as if they themselves have moral credentials when that person observes another person from a group they identify with making an egalitarian decision.[2] In research that draws on social identity theory it was also found that group membership moderates the effectiveness of moral credentials in mitigating perceptions of prejudice. Specifically, it was observed that displays of moral credentials have more effect between people who share in-group status.[3]


Innocent corruption. In all institutions that do not feel the sharp wind of public criticism (as, for example, in scholarly organizations and senates), an innocent corruption grows up, like a mushroom.[4][5]


  1. ^ Monin, B.; Miller, D. T. (2001). "Moral credentials and the expression of prejudice". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 81 (1): 33–43. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.81.1.33. PMID 11474723. 
  2. ^ a b Kouchaki, M. (Jul 2011). "Vicarious moral licensing: The influence of others' past moral actions on moral behavior.". J Pers Soc Psychol 101 (4): 702–15. doi:10.1037/a0024552. PMID 21744973. 
  3. ^ Krumm, Angela J.; Corning, Alexandra F. (1 December 2008). "Who Believes Us When We Try to Conceal Our Prejudices? The Effectiveness of Moral Credentials With In-Groups Versus Out-Groups.". The Journal of Social Psychology 148 (6): 689–709. doi:10.3200/SOCP.148.6.689-710. PMID 19058658. 
  4. ^ Human, All Too Human, § 468
  5. ^ Zimmern, Helen (translator) (1909). "8. A Look at the State". Human, All Too Human. London, England: Wordsworth Editions Limited. p. 210. ISBN 978-1-84022-083-4. 

See also[edit]