Maybe I Am Not as Moral as I Thought: Calibrating Moral Identity After Immoral Action

Zhi Xing Xu*, Hing Keung Ma, Yue Wang, Jian Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


How would people with a high moral identity deal with instances when they have not behaved morally? Cognitive dissonance theory and its revision, self-consistency theory, suggest that people would change their moral identity after committing unethical behavior; however, this process would be moderated by the self-importance of morality. In an experimental study with 87 highly educated young adults from Hong Kong and mainland China, we found that individuals calibrated their moral identity when confronted with evidence of cheating behavior; this calibration, however, was sharper for individuals with a high moral identity than those that with a low one. Possible underlying psychological mechanisms are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1347-1354
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Psychology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Psychology(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Calibrating moral identity
  • Cognitive dissonance theory
  • Dishonest behavior
  • Experiment study
  • Self-consistency


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