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Moral Chivalry: Gender and Harm Sensitivity Predict Costly Altruism

FeldmanHall, Oriel and Dalgleish, Tim and Evans, Davy and Navrady, Lauren and Tedeschi, Ellen and Mobbs, Dean (2016) Moral Chivalry: Gender and Harm Sensitivity Predict Costly Altruism. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 7 (6). pp. 542-551. ISSN 1948-5506. PMCID PMC4952565. doi:10.1177/1948550616647448.

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Moral perceptions of harm and fairness are instrumental in guiding how an individual navigates moral challenges. Classic research documents that the gender of a target can affect how people deploy these perceptions of harm and fairness. Across multiple studies, we explore the effect of an individual’s moral orientations (their considerations of harm and justice) and a target’s gender on altruistic behavior. Results reveal that a target’s gender can bias one’s readiness to engage in harmful actions and that a decider’s considerations of harm—but not fairness concerns—modulate costly altruism. Together, these data illustrate that moral choices are conditional on the social nature of the moral dyad: Even under the same moral constraints, a target’s gender and a decider’s gender can shift an individual’s choice to be more or less altruistic, suggesting that gender bias and harm considerations play a significant role in moral cognition.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Mobbs, Dean0000-0003-1175-3772
Additional Information:© 2016 The Author(s). This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page ( Published online 2016 May 25. The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was funded by the UK Medical Research Council and Columbia University.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Medical Research Council (UK)UNSPECIFIED
Columbia UniversityUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:moral, altruism, gender, gender bias, harm sensitivity
Issue or Number:6
PubMed Central ID:PMC4952565
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20180305-130652209
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Official Citation:FeldmanHall O, Dalgleish T, Evans D, Navrady L, Tedeschi E, Mobbs D. Moral Chivalry: Gender and Harm Sensitivity Predict Costly Altruism. Social Psychological and Personality Science. 2016;7(6):542-551. doi:10.1177/1948550616647448.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:85099
Deposited On:05 Mar 2018 22:01
Last Modified:15 Nov 2021 20:25

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