Closing our eyes affects our moral judgements (Study, ResearchDigest)

“The simple act of closing our eyes has a significant effect on our moral judgement and behaviour. […] Participants with their eyes closed who heard a hypothetical scenario in which they deliberately over-estimated hours worked (so as to charge more) judged the act as more unethical than participants who heard the same scenario with their eyes open. Participants who heard the instructions for a simple financial game with their eyes closed subsequently shared money more fairly than participants who heard the instructions with their eyes open. And participants who listened to a hypothetical scenario with their eyes closed, in which nepotism and self-interest had biased a recruitment decision they’d made, judged that act as more unethical than did participants who heard the same scenario with their eyes open. Follow-up questions showed that the eyes-closed participants had visualised the scenario more vividly.”


“Four experiments demonstrate that closing one’s eyes affects ethical judgment and behavior because it induces people to mentally simulate events more extensively. People who considered situations with their eyes closed rather than open judged immoral behaviors as more unethical and moral behaviors as more ethical. In addition, considering potential decisions with closed eyes decreased stated intentions to behave ethically and actual self-interested behavior. This relationship was mediated by the more extensive mental simulation that occurred with eyes closed rather than open, which, in turn, intensified emotional reactions to the ethical situation. We discuss the implications of these findings for moral psychology and ethical decision making.”

Caruso, E., and Gino, F. (2011). Blind ethics: Closing one’s eyes polarizes moral judgments and discourages dishonest behavior. Cognition, 118 (2), 280-285
DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2010.11.008

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