What Is Moral-Credential Bias?
The Quick AnswerIn Critical Thinking, moral-credential bias is believing previous good acts give licence to performing a bad act.
Here's a short example to illustrate moral-credential bias:
This bias can have significant consequences as it allows individuals to engage in harmful or unethical behaviour while still perceiving themselves as moral and virtuous. It can undermine personal integrity and contribute to a lack of accountability for one's actions.
Recognizing moral-credential bias is important for maintaining consistency in moral behaviour and avoiding rationalizations that justify immoral or unethical actions based on past virtuous behaviour. It involves being aware of the potential for this bias to influence decision-making and holding oneself accountable for maintaining ethical standards even after engaging in morally praiseworthy acts.
Easy Definition of Moral-Credential Bias
Don't think it's okay to do something wrong because you normally do the right thing. Your decision to do the wrong thing would be tainted by moral-credential bias, if you did.
Academic Definition of Moral-Credential Bias
Moral-credential bias occurs when someone's history of making fair judgements gives rise to a sense of "free licence" in the future.
An Example of Moral-Credential Bias
We are an equal-opportunities employer...sometimesMy mate used to work for a company that had a high turnover of staff. To combat this, they had regular recruitment rounds to maintain staff levels. They knew that women aged 35-55 were not only the most productive but also the most likely to stay on. But, being a good, law-abiding company, they did not discriminate. They were blind to sex, ethnicity, and disability during their recruitment. They displayed good morals. Well, most of the time. If time was tight and a worker was needed at short notice, the manager would tell the HR department to "find a middle-aged woman to fill that slot by Friday." Because the boss knew his previous moral stance had filled his company with the correct ratios of diversity, he felt he had done his bit and had free rein to do what he liked on such occasions.
(German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844–1900)
Another Example of Moral-Credential Bias
I've paid enough tax, your majestyI once overheard a driving instructor say to his pupil, "I just work cash in hand these days. I've paid enough tax over the years."
This is a great example of moral-credential bias. Good practice in the past does give the green light for bad practice.
A Practical Application for Moral-Credential Bias
Defend yourself and othersUnderstanding moral-credential bias is useful to help you counter it, either in yourself or in others. Remember, the idea that you're normally good is no defence for being bad.
"If you rob a bank once, you'll go to jail. You won't be let off for the nine times you didn't rob a bank."
Summary of Moral-Credential BiasIf you think somebody justifies doing something wrong on the grounds that they feel they've accumulated sufficient goodwill, tell them their decision is influenced by moral-credential bias.
Critical Thinking TestAre you good at spotting the biases, fallacies, and other cognitive effects? Can you spot when statistics have been manipulated? Can you read body language? Well, let's see!
- This test has questions.
- A correct answer is worth 5 points.
- You can get up to 5 bonus points for a speedy answer.
- Some questions demand more than one answer. You must get every part right.
- Beware! Wrong answers score 0 points.
- 🏆 If you beat one of the top 3 scores, you will be invited to apply for the Hall of Fame.
- Do you disagree with something on this page?
- Did you spot a typo?
- Do you know a bias or fallacy that we've missed?