Poker-faced morality: Concealing emotions leads to utilitarian decision making


Lee, J. J., & Gino, F. (2015). Poker-faced morality: Concealing emotions leads to utilitarian decision making. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes , 126, 49-64.


This paper examines how making deliberate efforts to regulate aversive affective responses influences people’s decisions in moral dilemmas. We hypothesize that emotion regulation — mainly suppression and reappraisal — will encourage utilitarian choices in emotionally charged contexts and that this effect will be mediated by the decision maker’s decreased deontological inclinations. In Study 1, we find that individuals who endorsed the utilitarian option (vs. the deontological option) were more likely to suppress their emotional expressions. In Studies 2a, 2b, and 3, we instruct participants to either regulate their emotions, using one of two different strategies (reappraisal vs. suppression), or not to regulate, and we collect data through the concurrent monitoring of psycho-physiological measures. We find that participants are more likely to make utilitarian decisions when asked to suppress their emotions rather than when they do not regulate their affect. In Study 4, we show that one’s reduced deontological inclinations mediate the relationship between emotion regulation and utilitarian decision making.

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Last updated on 07/07/2015