Assignment: Interpersonal Judgment

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Assignment: Interpersonal Judgment

Assignment: Interpersonal Judgment

Assignment: Interpersonal Judgment

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Barry R. Schlenker,1 Michael F. Weigold,1 and

Kristine A. Schlenker2

1University of Florida 2Penn State University

ABSTRACT Principled and expedient ideologies affect self-regulation and guide people along divergent ethical paths. A more principled ide- ology, indicative of higher claimed integrity, involves a greater personal commitment to ethical beliefs, standards, and self-schemas that facilitate positive social activities and help resist the temptation of illicit activities. Two studies showed that differences in reported integrity are related to people’s preferences for and judgments of others. Those higher in integ- rity spontaneously described their heroes as more principled, honest, spiritual, and benevolently oriented toward others (Study 1). In addition, integrity was related to people’s evaluations of characters who made ethical or unethical career decisions (Study 2). The judgments of those higher in integrity were greatly influenced by whether or not the decision was ethical but were largely unaffected by the consequences (career success or failure), whereas those lower in integrity were less influenced by whether the decision was ethical and more influenced by the career consequences.

Ethical dilemmas pit principles against expediency. Doing the right thing is a basis for acts of heroism and laudable accomplishment but often involves personal sacrifice. Doing the expedient thing is a basis

for acts of self-indulgence and opportunism but often at a cost to others. How people resolve the tension between principles and

expediency tests an individual’s character and a society’s ability to function effectively. Each path has a certain appeal—the principled

Correspondence concerning this article may be addressed to Barry R. Schlenker,

Department of Psychology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611. E-mail:

Journal of Personality 76:2, April 2008 r 2008, Copyright the Authors Journal compilation r 2008, Blackwell Publishing, Inc. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2007.00488.x

path for its integrity and the expedient path for its profits. Informa-

tive glimpses may be gained into the values, aspirations, and ideol- ogies of individuals and societies by examining whom they admire

and regard as a hero and what criteria they use to praise and con- demn others. The present studies examined individual differences in

whom people regard as their heroes, why they regard them as heroes, and how they judge others based on how those others resolve

conflicts between principles and expediency.

Principled and Expedient Ideologies: Commitment to Integrity

An ethical ideology is an integrated system of beliefs, values,

standards, and self-definitions that define an individual’s orientation toward matters of right and wrong or good and evil (Schlenker,

2007). It provides a moral schema for evaluating events and a moral identity that describes one’s ethical character. Principled ideologies

contain the ideas that ethical principles have a trans-situational quality, these principles should be followed regardless of personal

consequences or self-serving justifications, and integrity is inherently valuable and a defining quality of one’s identity. In contrast, expe-

dient ideologies involve the ideas that moral principles can be flexible, that it is important to take advantage of profitable opportunities and foolish to fail to do so, and that what might seem to be deviations

from principles can usually be justified. Schlenker (2007) proposed that personal commitment to a

principled ideology determines the strength of the relationship be- tween ethical principles and behavior. Personal commitment links the

self-system to the ethical principles, producing an accompanying sense of obligation to perform consistently with those principles and

a sense of responsibility for relevant actions (Schlenker, 2007; see also Schlenker, 1997; Schlenker, Pontari, & Christopher, 2001). There is then greater difficulty explaining inconsistent conduct and less per-

ceived flexibility to pursue unprincipled alternatives. This analysis is consistent with arguments, from several theoretical perspectives, that

people’s moral self-conceptions guide conduct across a range of sit- uations (Aquino & Reed, 2002; Blasi, 1980, 1983; Narvaez, Lapsley,

Hagele, & Lasky, 2005; Peterson & Seligman, 2004). Individual differences in reports of principled commitment can

be assessed with the Integrity Scale (Schlenker, 2007). Principled ideologies characterize people who regard themselves as having high

324 Schlenker, Weigold, & Schlenker

integrity. The first dictionary meaning of integrity is the ‘‘steadfast

adherence to a strict moral or ethical code’’ (American Heritage Dictionary, 2000), and synonyms include being honest, upright, and

incorruptible. The 18-item scale (see Appendix) focuses on the strength of people’s claims of being principled (as opposed to expe-

dient), and items assess the inherent value of principled conduct, the steadfast commitment to principles despite costs or temptations, and

the unwillingness to rationalize violations of principles. Although some items include references to truthfulness, lying, and cheating,

which are inherent to definitions of integrity, participants are left to define principles and right versus wrong for themselves.

Higher scores reflect stronger endorsement of a principled

ideology and the claim that one is a principled person with integri- ty, whereas lower scores reflect a more expedient orientation. Peo-

ple’s ethical ideologies may or may not coincide with their behavior, of course, so it is an empirical question whether those who express a

commitment to principles actually behave in a principled fashion. The scale demonstrates acceptable internal-consistency reliability

(Cronbach’s a ranged from .84 to .90 across 6 samples) and test- retest reliability (r5 .82 over 2–5 weeks; Schlenker, 2007). Confir- matory factor analyses supported the view that a single latent integ-

rity dimension, which appears to reflect the principled-expedient continuum, along with measurement effects from direct- and reverse-

scored items, underlies responses ( Johnson & Schlenker, 2007). So- cial desirability bias, which is a substantial problem with measures of

overt integrity (i.e., honesty testing) used in business (Sackett & Wanek, 1996), is small and accounts for under 3% of the common

variance (rs ranged from .05 to .17 in 5 samples; Schlenker, 2007). Given the conceptual rationale for the scale, integrity scores

should be related to respondents’ moral identities and their pro- social versus antisocial orientations toward others, and research shows that they are. In the personality realm, integrity scores are

positively related to scores on measures of the purpose and meaning in life, authenticity, empathy, trust, and self-esteem and negatively re-

lated to scores on Machiavellianism, self-monitoring, cynicism, nar- cissism, alienation, and the tendency to rationalize antisocial and

illegal conduct. Integrity scores are unrelated to measures of dogma- tism and the need for closure, indicating that the scale is not simply

assessing closed-mindedness (Schlenker, 2007). Further, integrity predicts reported helping and volunteering even after controlling for

What Makes a Hero? 325

empathy, as well as antisocial behavior, including lying, cheating,

stealing, and other undesirable behaviors (Schlenker, 2007). People’s levels of integrity are accurately perceived by their

friends, as evidenced by significant correlations between respon- dents’ own integrity scores and their friends’ appraisals of their in-

tegrity (Miller & Schlenker, 2007). Higher scorers also prefer to interact with others to see them as being high in integrity, whereas

those who score lower equally prefer evaluations of being principled or expedient (Miller & Schlenker, 2007). It is worth noting that vir- tually no one claims to be unprincipled. Instead, those who score

lower express more of a balance between principles and expediency, whereas those who score higher express a stronger commitment to

principles and greater aversion to expediency (e.g., compromising principles for profit).

Prior research has not examined how integrity is related to social judgment, particularly to admiration for others. The present studies

addressed evaluative social judgments.

Integrity and Heroes

Why Study Heroes?

Heroes can play important roles in people’s lives. Like any signifi- cant audience or reference group, heroes provide reference points for

goals, standards, and ways to behave. People’s perceptions of their heroes’ values, standards, and behavioral tendencies are integrated

into cognitive schemas, and these serve as mental templates for de- sirable ways to act in various social situations. As such, heroes

function as exemplars or models for desirable conduct as imagined judges of conduct and as social comparison targets. Although com-

paring oneself to heroes can produce a contrast effect and negative self-evaluations, it can also serve as inspiration to motivate self- improvement, produce the glow of basking in their accomplish-

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