The role of morality in social cognition

Jennifer L. Ray, Peter Mende-Siedlecki, Ana Gantman, Jay J. Van Bavel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Over the past few decades, two-factor models of social cognition have emerged as the dominant framework for understanding impression formation. Despite the differences in the labels, there is wide agreement that one dimension reflects sociability potential, and the other, competence. One way in which the various two-factor models do clearly differ, however, is in the way the dimensions incorporate or produce evaluations of morality. Aristotle saw morality as the most important basis on which to form positive evaluations, because competence and sociability could only be virtuous, sincere, and trustworthy if expressed through a moral character. This chapter highlights research demonstrating the unique and possibly primary role of morality in social cognition. We clarify the dynamic, interactive, and conjoint effects of morality on social perception, and argue morality, competence, and sociability are three influential and interactive dimensions of social perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Neural Basis of Mentalizing
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9783030518905
ISBN (Print)9783030518899
StatePublished - May 11 2021


  • Dynamical systems
  • Impression formation
  • Morality
  • Social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • General Medicine
  • General Neuroscience


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