People act less morally than they forecast

Updated: Feb 23, 2011, 16:02 PM IST

Toronto: If asked whether we`d steal, most of us would say no. Would we try to save a drowning person? That depends - perhaps on our fear of waves. A research has shown that people act less morally than they forecast.

Much research has explored the ways we make moral decisions. But in the clinch, when the opportunity arises to do good or bad, how well do our predictions match up with the actions we actually take?

A study by Rimma Teper, Michael Inzlicht and Elizabeth Page-Gould of the University of Toronto tested the difference between moral forecasting and action, and the reasons behind any mismatch, the journal Psychological Science reports.

Doctoral candidate in psychology and lead author Teper says: "There has been other work that has shown the opposite effect - that people are acting less morally" than they forecast, according to a Toronto University statement.

What`s the missing link between moral reasoning and moral action? -- Emotion.

Emotions - fear, guilt, love - play a central role in all thinking and behaviour, including moral behaviour.

But when people are contemplating how they`ll act, "they don`t have a good grasp of the intensity of the emotions they will feel" in the breach, says Teper, so they misjudge what they`ll do.