Moral Credential

Moral Credential

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. Similar effects also appear to occur when a person observes another person from a group they identify with making an egalitarian decision.

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    Each man’s private conscience ought to be a nice little self-registering thermometer: he ought to carry his moral code incorruptibly and explicitly within himself, and not care what the world thinks. The mass of human beings, however, are not made that way; and many people have been saved from crime or sin by the simple dislike of doing things they would not like to confess ...
    Katharine Fullerton Gerould (1879–1944)