Chronic accessibility of virtue-trait inferences : a social-cognitive approach to the moral personality

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Lasky, Benjamin M.
Lapsley, Daniel K.
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Thesis (Ph. D.)
Department of Educational Psychology
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This study examined the hypothesis that the moral personality is one in which moral knowledge structures are chronically accessible. A spontaneous trait inference cued-recall paradigm was employed. It was expected that those with chronically accessible moral knowledge structures (N = 61) would spontaneously encode virtue-content information differently than those with less chronically accessible moral knowledge structures (N = 77). High and low moral chronic accessibility participants were instructed to memorize sentences that contained virtue-content implications. Sentence recall was then cued by either virtuous dispositional terms or by words that were linked semantically to the sentences. Within the spontaneous processing condition, dispositional cues prompted twice as much recall as semantic cues among participants with high moral chronic accessibility whereas semantic cues prompted twice as much recall as dispositional cues among participants with low moral chronic accessibility. As predicted, within the deliberate processing conditions, there were no high/low moral chronic accessibility differences. These findings support the claim that the moral personality is usefully conceptualized in terms of the chronic accessibility of moral knowledge structures.