The functioning of societies and the quality of interpersonal relationships heavily depend on moral behaviors such as fairness, cooperation, and honesty, whereas immoral behaviors bear tremendous societal costs. A long-standing puzzle facing the social sciences and the humanities is how to promote moral behavior. The prevalent approach is to modify the situation, e.g. through implementing rewards for moral and sanctions for immoral behavior or through nudging. Community and organizational policies invariably resort to such interventions to foster moral action. However, situation-based approaches are distinctly limited: they inhibit more consistent behavior change that extends to situations where the intervention is absent, and they often fail or even backfire.
In KNOW-THYSELF, I pursue a person-centered approach that can more widely and sustainably promote moral behavior than existing approaches. I draw on a yet unexploited resource for desirable behavior change rooted in ancient Greek philosophy: self-knowledge, defined as an accurate representation of what one is like. In the moral domain in particular, self-knowledge is restricted by self-enhancement – the pervasive bias to see oneself more favorably than implied by one's actions. I propose that increasing self-knowledge about moral character can promote moral behavior across contexts and even give rise to long-term change of personality traits that underlie moral action.
Adopting a multi-disciplinary perspective and combining rigorous experiments with cutting-edge field methods (e.g. experience sampling), I address three key challenges:
(1) How to advance self-knowledge most effectively
(2) Increase self-knowledge to promote moral behavior
(3) Increase self-knowledge to initiate long-term personality change
Tackling these challenges offers ground-breaking insights for theory, research, and practice into how self-knowledge can be advanced and utilized to boost moral behavior – in the short- and long-term.
Fields of science
- HORIZON.1.1 - European Research Council (ERC) Main Programme