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UBC Theses and Dissertations

How do we feel when angels turn out to be demons? : the experience and effects of misperceiving moral character Guan, Kate Wen


In everyday life, we make important judgments about other people’s moral characters (Goodwin, Piazza, & Rozin, 2016). These judgments help us understand others (Hartley et al., 2016), predict what they are likely to do, and plan our decisions around them (van der Lee, Ellemers, Scheepers, & Rutjens, 2017). However, despite the importance of assessing character accurately, we occasionally encounter seemingly good people who surprise us by revealing bad moral character. How do we feel when we learn we have misjudged someone’s moral character? In the present work, I apply theory from the Meaning Maintenance Model (MMM; Heine, Proulx, & Vohs, 2006) to investigate why such apparent misperceptions of character are aversive. In Chapter 2 (Study 1), I review how misperceiving character in everyday life predicts a sense of meaning violation, negative affect, and doubt regarding one’s judgments of others. In Chapter 3 (Study 2), I review how experimentally manipulating misperceptions leads to similar consequences, and I compare these consequences to the effects of witnessing unsurprising immoral behaviour. Taken together, these findings contribute to our understanding of how social perception provides meaning, and highlight the importance of moral character perception in meaning.

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