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 ...

How cognitive psychology and cultural sociology can benefit each other

May 18, 2018
For decades, cognitive psychologists have sought to understand how the brain works and in recent years have outlined a number of theories—from implicit biases to the psychology of scarcity and tribalism—to explain how ...

Religious decline does not equal moral decline, says researcher

January 13, 2016
Morality is not rooted in religion and religion matters less for moral values now than it did 30 years ago, says a University of Manchester researcher.

Aggression at work can lead to 'vicious circle' of misconduct

May 10, 2018
New research led by the University of East Anglia (UEA) reveals that frequently being the target of workplace aggression not only affects the victim's health but can also cause them to behave badly towards others.

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

Suicide risk in abused teen girls linked to mother-daughter conflict

October 18, 2018
Teenage girls who were maltreated as children are more likely to entertain suicidal thoughts if the relationship with their mother is poor and the degree of conflict between the two of them high.

Study shows how bias can influence people estimating the ages of other people

October 17, 2018
A trio of researchers from the University of New South Wales and Western Sydney University has discovered some of the factors involved when people make errors in estimating the ages of other people. In their paper published ...

Infants are more likely to learn when with a peer

October 16, 2018
Infants are more likely to learn from on-screen instruction when paired with another infant as opposed to viewing the lesson alone, according to a new study.

Researchers use brain cells in a dish to study genetic origins of schizophrenia

October 16, 2018
A study in Biological Psychiatry has established a new analytical method for investigating the complex genetic origins of mental illnesses using brain cells that are grown in a dish from human embryonic stem cells. Researchers ...

Income and wealth affect the mental health of Australians, study shows

October 16, 2018
Australians who have higher incomes and greater wealth are more likely to experience better mental health throughout their lives, new research led by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre has found.

Study suggests biological basis for depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances in older adults

October 15, 2018
UC San Francisco researchers, in collaboration with the unique Brazilian Biobank for Aging Studies (BBAS) at the University of São Paulo, have shown that the earliest stages of the brain degeneration associated with Alzheimer's ...

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.