Social Justice Research

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 171-187

First online:

Egocentric Ethics

  • Nicholas EpleyAffiliated withHarvard University Email author 
  • , Eugene M. CarusoAffiliated withHarvard University

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Ethical judgments are often egocentrically biased, such that moral reasoners tend to conclude that self-interested outcomes are not only desirable but morally justifiable. Although such egocentric ethics can arise from deliberate self-interested reasoning, we suggest that they may also arise through unconscious and automatic psychological mechanisms. People automatically interpret their perceptions egocentrically, automatically evaluate stimuli on a semantic differential as positive or negative, and base their moral judgments on affective reactions to stimuli. These three automatic and unconscious features of human judgment can help to explain not only why ethical judgments are egocentrically biased, but also why such subjective perceptions can appear objective and unbiased to moral reasoners themselves.

egocentrism automaticity fairness ethics moral judgment moral reasoning