How quick decisions illuminate moral character

C.R. Critcher, Y. Inbar, D.A. Pizarro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

112 Citations (Scopus)


It has been suggested that people attend to others’ actions in the service of forming impressions of their underlying dispositions. If so, it follows that in considering others’ morally relevant actions, social perceivers should be responsive to accompanying cues that help illuminate actors’ underlying moral character. This article examines one relevant cue that can characterize any decision process: the speed with which the decision is made. Two experiments show that actors who make an immoral decision quickly (vs. slowly) are evaluated more negatively. In contrast, actors who arrive at a moral decision quickly (vs. slowly) receive particularly positive moral character evaluations. Quick decisions carry this signal value because they are assumed to reflect certainty in the decision (Experiments 1 and 2), which in turn signals that more unambiguous motives drove the behavior (Experiment 2), which in turn explains the more polarized moral character evaluations. Implications for moral psychology and the law are discussed.
Keywords: decision speed, motives, moral judgment, moral character, certainty
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308-315
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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