Bad people doing good things: Attributions about people with immoral traits

Sieun An, Michael J. Marks, David Trafimow, Mark Fedyk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Perfect duties are those required by moral individuals, whereas imperfect duties, although not required, are expected of moral individuals. Previous research suggests it takes fewer perfect than imperfect duty violations to override an existing impression of a person as moral. Presently, we examine moral attributions about immoral people performing moral behaviors. Across four studies, we assessed whether initial impressions of a person as immoral are reversible, and if so, what is the mechanism of these changes in impressions of people with immoral traits? In order to do so, we measured how many moral behaviors are required to reverse them. We also assessed the mediating role of affect and intent in these moral attributions, and assessed perceptions of how easy it is for actors to perform moral behaviors. The results suggest that imperfect duty behaviors revised previous negative impressions more easily than perfect duty behaviors. In addition, intention, but not affect, partially mediated the relationship between moral violation type and moral attributions. Further implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCurrent Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Affect
  • Attribution
  • Intention
  • Morality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Bad people doing good things: Attributions about people with immoral traits'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this