How moral identity influences behaviour

How people view themselves from a moral perspective can also serve as a significant motivator of behaviour, new research has suggested. Published in the journal American Sociological Review, the study noted this theory of the moral self could explain recent ethical failings in the banking, mortgage and investment sectors.

In the report entitled A Theory of the Self for the Sociology of Morality, investigators from the University of California (UC), Riverside and California State University wished to look further into the belief that actions can come as a result of cultural expectations about how to behave in certain situations.

According to the findings, those who caused the recession may have not felt guilt or shame when going about their jobs because their moral identity standard was low.

In addition, it was suggested that these actions were not challenged by others in the same profession and Jan Strets of UC Riverside - which has roots stretching back to 1907 - explained: "One's identity standard guides a person's behaviour. Then the person sees the reactions of others to one's own behaviour."

Mark Millard, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "Moral behaviour is a function of head, heart and situation – calculations we make and remake based our principles, our empathy and the practices that prevail around us. Our moral self is thus malleable, for good and ill (bankers included)."