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IACM 2023

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Giving Feedback On Others’ (moral and Non-Moral) Shortcomings: A Meta-Analysis

From corporate scandals to everyday infractions, moral violations pervade our social world. In the face of transgressions, giving moral feedback (i.e., constructive feedback that addresses moral behavior specifically) could have the potential to boost cooperative behavior and increase relationship satisfaction for all parties. However, given morality’s unique ties to one’s identity, we predicted that communicators would expect moral (vs. non-moral) feedback to be particularly face-threatening to recipients, resulting in a greater reluctance. Using a pre- registered meta-analysis of fifteen studies (N = 8,479; hypothetical, experimental, dyadic studies with lay participant pools from CloudResearch, Prolific, and two campus labs), we systematically examine the role of feedback domain (moral vs. non-moral) as well as contextual factors that influence when communicators are willing to give moral feedback and how they perceive its consequences. In line with our hypothesis, we found a small but statistically significant effect of domain (Hedges’ g = –0.19) on the likelihood of people delivering feedback, such that people are less likely to deliver moral (vs. non-moral) feedback. We also find that people are far more likely to predict that moral feedback would elicit a negative reaction than non-moral feedback would (Hedges’ g = 0.25). Across a wide range of study designs, people show a slight reluctance to deliver moral feedback and that concerns about interpersonal backlash from moral (vs. non-moral) feedback may explain this reluctance.

Yena Kim
University of Chicago, Booth School of Business
United States


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