Flexibility is the Key to Stability: An Investigation of the Malleability of Personality Judgements with a Focus on the Moral Domain.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis investigates the malleability of individuals’ self-concept by extending the anchoring and choice blindness paradigms to the domain of the self. In a series of online experiments, I explore how others’ behaviour and one’s own (alleged) previous behaviour influence current personality judgements and decisions. Study 1 investigates whether moral choices are more malleable than choices in other domains in response to social anchors. Study 2 asks whether participants are especially vulnerable to self-serving anchors, i.e., anchors heightening participant’s qualities. Studies 3 and 4 explore the potential self-serving aftereffect of anchoring on subsequent personality judgements (Study 3) and prosocial choices (Study 4). Study 5 investigates whether personality judgements are susceptible to choice blindness manipulations, especially when the manipulations elevate the self-view. Throughout the studies, I contrast moral and non-moral attitudes to explore whether moral behaviours and personality judgements are more susceptible to cognitive influences.
The main conclusion from the present thesis is that personality judgements are flexible in response to cognitive influences in a self-serving manner: personality judgements seem flexible enough to accommodate adjustments elevating the self-image, however they remain relatively stable in the face of diminishing manipulations. Although, there was no unanimous evidence that self-serving manipulations of personality judgements influence the general self-image, enhancing anchors led to nearly 15% more generous donations in a subsequent Dictator Game. The analysis did not support magnified anchoring or choice blindness effects for moral traits, rather morality had a general elevating effect with individuals ranking themselves more positively on moral than on non-moral traits. The data also provided evidence for a “phrasing effect” with participants ranking themselves higher, on average, for negatively than positively phrased traits. These findings suggest that personality judgements are constructed and adjusted in a somewhat different way than previously thought. Implications for the anchoring and choice blindness frameworks are also discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • McKay, Ryan, Supervisor
  • Hartig, Bjoern, Supervisor, External person
  • Johansson, Petter, Supervisor, External person
Award date1 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 2024

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