Role Models and Moral Ambiguity: Impacts on Adolescent Moral Decision-Making
Provins, Alexandra Lee
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CitationProvins, Alexandra Lee. 2021. Role Models and Moral Ambiguity: Impacts on Adolescent Moral Decision-Making. Master's thesis, Harvard University Division of Continuing Education.
AbstractObserving the actions of role models can influence how we behave and make moral decisions, but how do individuals process and apply the morally ambiguous actions of role models? This study sought to identify the differing impacts of observing a role model take a moral, immoral, and morally ambiguous action on subsequent moral decision-making behavior in adolescents. Participants read a story where a role model either told the truth, lied for his own benefit, or lied to help someone else, and subsequently participated in die-roll activities where they had the opportunity to lie for their own advantage or for the benefit of a needy other. I hypothesized that (1) exposure to a role model’s morally ambiguous action would lead to less moral behavior than exposure to an immoral or moral action (1a) when the behavior benefitted oneself and (1b) when the behavior benefitted a needy other. Two ANOVA analyses revealed nonsignificant main effects. Contrasts revealed a significant difference between the immoral and morally ambiguous groups and the moral and immoral groups in the other-beneficiary condition. Perception of the protagonist’s admirability was a covariate in the self-beneficiary condition and age was a covariate in the other-beneficiary condition. Exploratory analyses were conducted utilizing a binomial probability function to compare group distributions and proportions of lies between groups. Comparisons between the binomial probability distribution and group distributions suggested that lying occurred in all groups and conditions except the immoral group in the self-beneficiary condition. Comparisons between group distributions were not significant, but they were suggestive of differing trends in behavior between groups. A chi-squared analysis of likely lies also identified greater lying in the morally ambiguous group on behalf of the self and less lying in the immoral group on behalf of another individual compared to the other groups. Although not all analyses reached significance, the trends in the data are suggestive of a differing impact on adolescent behavior after exposure to a moral, immoral, or morally ambiguous action taken by a role model.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37367619
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