Morals more important than success in a role model

June 13, 2018, University of Queensland
Morals more important than success in a role model
Credit: University of Queensland

People choose role models who have achieved success in ways that are in line with their own moral values, according to University of Queensland research.

Dr. Kim Peters of the UQ School of Psychology examined the competency and moral characters of in the workplace and found that people did not blindly follow extraordinary ability and .

"The extent to which people see their work supervisor as a role , or consider a new supervisor as a potential role model, is determined by their perceived morality as well as perceived competence," Dr. Peters said.

"People are looking to model someone who not only shows what can be achieved, but also shows how to achieve it while remaining a good person."

The research involved four studies of workers in Australia and abroad, who were asked about the competency and of supervisors in the workplace.

"Competency is not enough; it is when would-be role models are seen as decent and virtuous that their ability and competence makes people want to follow in their footsteps," Dr. Peters said.

"People don't unthinkingly model the immoral and undesirable behaviours of others, because they are uniquely sensitive to this dimension when choosing models in the first place."

Dr. Peters said the findings have wider implications, particularly when it comes to celebrities.

"We tend to assume that role models are the highly visible success stories in society – the movie stars, politicians, athletes and entrepreneurs," she said.

"With this comes a collective sense of anxiety when these stars are caught behaving badly.

"The fear is that members of the community will unthinkingly copy this bad and immoral behaviour.

"However, this fear is largely misplaced, as our role models are not only chosen on the basis of success and competence.

"Perceived morality is important too."

The study, conducted in collaboration with UQ's Dr. Nik Steffens and Dr. Thekla Morgenroth of the University of Exeter, is published in the European Journal of Social Psychology.

Explore further: Dishonest individuals perceived as less capable

More information: Kim Peters et al. Superstars are not necessarily role models: Morality perceptions moderate the impact of competence perceptions on supervisor role modeling, European Journal of Social Psychology (2018). DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.2372

Related Stories

Dishonest individuals perceived as less capable

January 31, 2018
If you saw someone steal an expensive item from a department store, would you think he is less capable at his job? Most people would think that, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

Expecting the worst: People's perceived morality is biased towards negativity

July 12, 2017
Researchers from the University of Surrey and University of Milano-Bicocca (Italy) collected data from more than 400 participants on behavioural expectations of people described as 'moral' and 'immoral'. Participants were ...

Have you heard? Gossiping isn't all bad

November 17, 2017
Gossiping helps a person develop a better understanding of their society's expected behaviours, researchers from The University of Queensland have found.

Recommended for you

Beauty is simpler, and less special, than we realize

August 20, 2018
Beauty, long studied by philosophers, and more recently by scientists, is simpler than we might think, New York University psychology researchers have concluded in a new analysis. Their work, which appears in the journal ...

Bilingual children who speak native language at home have higher intelligence

August 20, 2018
Children who regularly use their native language at home while growing up in a different country have higher IQs, a new study has shown.

People are more honest when using a foreign tongue, research finds

August 17, 2018
New UChicago-led research suggests that someone who speaks in a foreign language is probably more credible than the average native speaker.

FDA approves brain stimulation device for OCD

August 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—A brain stimulation device to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has received approval for marketing Friday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Research eyes role of stress in mental illnesses

August 17, 2018
We all face stress in our lives. Even researchers seeking to understand why some people shrug it off while others face battles against disorders like depression or PTSD.

16 going on 66: Will you be the same person 50 years from now?

August 17, 2018
How much do you change between high school and retirement? The answer depends on whether you're comparing yourself to others or to your younger self.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.