Listen to your heart

When false somatic feedback shapes moral behavior

Jun Gu*, Chen-Bo Zhong, Elizabeth Page-Gould

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A pounding heart is a common symptom people experience when confronting moral dilemmas. The authors conducted 4 experiments using a false feedback paradigm to explore whether and when listening to a fast (vs. normal) heartbeat sound shaped ethical behavior. Study 1 found that perceived fast heartbeat increased volunteering for a just cause. Study 2 extended this effect to moral transgressions and showed that perceived fast heartbeat reduced lying for self-gain. Studies 3 and 4 explored the boundary conditions of this effect and found that perceived heartbeat had less influence on deception when people are mindful or approach the decision deliberatively. These findings suggest that the perceived physiological experience of fast heartbeats may signal greater distress in moral situations and hence motivate people to take the moral high road.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-312
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Volume142
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Ethical decision making
  • False feedback paradigm
  • Heartbeat
  • Morality
  • Stress and coping

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