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Moral Identity and the Virtuous Circle of Self-control
  • Tuvana Rua
The existing literature in ethical decision making indicates that moral identity (how central morality is within one's identity) not only leads to the motivation to be ethical but also generates ethical decisions and behaviors. Although moral identity explains the will to be ethical, the current literature falls short in explaining how and when the will to be ethical leads to the ethical behavior and when and why it fails to do so. Therefore, the purpose of this research is to examine whether self-control (the capacity to override, interrupt, and alter one's responses and the capability to prohibit socially unacceptable/undesirable behaviors) is the mechanism that moral identity acts through to enable ethical behaviors. Two experimental studies were conducted to test whether self-control mediates the relationship between moral identity and ethical behavior and whether moral identity can influence ethical behavior in the absence of self-control resources. Results indicate that centrality of one's moral identity does not generate automatic ethical behaviors but rather a contested ethical decision making process, leading to first applied self-control then ethical behavior. In other words, applied self-control mediates the relationship between moral identity and ethical behavior. Results also show that these exercises of applied self-control generated by one's moral identity lead to an overall stronger self-control ability. Implications of the findings as well as directions for future research are discussed.

  • Ego-depletion,
  • Ethical decision making,
  • Ethical temptation,
  • Moral identity,
  • Self-control
Publication Date
Citation Information
Tuvana Rua. "Moral Identity and the Virtuous Circle of Self-control" (2013)
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