Moral cleansing as global self-worth maintenance

Jun Gu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperOtherpeer-review


Recurring business and political scandals in modern capitalist societies stress urgent need to understand why people exhibit (im)moral behaviors. Moral cleansing research showed that, when individuals’ self-worth as moral people is threatened, they exhibit more moral behaviors presumably to restore and maintain the moral self-worth. This paper further develops this research by testing whether moral cleansing serves a higher goal of maintain global self-worth, which encompasses self- worth in multiple areas including morality and non-moral areas (e.g., intelligence, athletics, physical appearance, etc.). Three experiments consistently showed that a self-worth threat (vs. control) in an area unrelated to morality led individuals who value morality to volunteer more for a research study, donate more to a local charity, and exhibit less deceptive behavior. These results suggest that moral cleansing is a mechanism through which individuals maintain their global self-worth and have implications for better understanding why people choose the moral route in moral dilemmas.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAcademy of Management 2013 Annual Meeting
EditorsLeslie Toombs
Place of PublicationBriarcliff Manor NY USA
PublisherAcademy of Management
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 2013
EventAnnual Meeting of the Academy of Management 2013 - Orlando, United States of America
Duration: 9 Aug 201313 Aug 2013
Conference number: 73rd

Publication series

NameAcademy of Management. Annual Meeting Proceedings
PublisherAcademy of Management
ISSN (Electronic)2151-6561


ConferenceAnnual Meeting of the Academy of Management 2013
Abbreviated titleAoM 2013
Country/TerritoryUnited States of America
OtherThe Academy of Management's vision statement says that we aim "to inspire and enable a better world through our scholarship and teaching about management and organizations." The recent economic and financial crises, austerity, and unemployment, and the emergence of many economic, social, and environmental protest movements around the world have put back on the agenda some big questions about this vision: What kind of economic system would this better world be built on? Would it be a capitalist one? If so, what kind of capitalism? If not, what are the alternatives? Although most of our work does not usually ask such "big" questions, the assumptions we make about the corresponding answers deeply influence our research, teaching, and service.
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