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Initial Impressions Determine Behaviours: Morality Predicts the Willingness to Help Newcomers

Abstract

Prior research has demonstrated the impact of morality (vs. competence) information for impression formation. This study examines behavioral implications of people’s initial impressions based on information about their morality vs. competence in a workplace. School teachers and employees (N = 79) were asked to form an impression of a new school manager (i.e. a prospective boss), who was presented as High vs. Low in Morality and High vs. Low in Competence. Results showed that morality information rather than competence information determined initial emotional responses to the new manager, which mediated willingness to help the newcomer adjust in task and social contexts. Results are discussed in terms of their theoretical and practical implications and future research directions are outlined.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In addition to the intended effect of the competence manipulation (η 2p  = .63), there was also a much smaller (η 2p  = .15) effect of the morality manipulation on perceived competence F (1,75) = 13.71, p = .001. Importantly, the interaction was not interaction F (1,75) = 0.66, p = .42, and the perceived difference in low vs. high competence was retained in both the low and the high morality conditions (high morality condition: low competence M = 2.58; SD = 1.35; high competence M = 6.00; SD = 1.09; low morality condition: low competence M = 1.76; SD = 0.83; high competence M = 4.72; SD = 1.67). This confirms that our experimental manipulations had the intended effects.

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Correspondence to Stefano Pagliaro.

Appendix

Appendix

Example of experimental material, relative to the high morality by high competence condition. Note that, the instructions and materials were presented to participants in Italian.

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Pagliaro, S., Brambilla, M., Sacchi, S. et al. Initial Impressions Determine Behaviours: Morality Predicts the Willingness to Help Newcomers. J Bus Ethics 117, 37–44 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-012-1508-y

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Keywords

  • Impression formation
  • Morality
  • Behaviour