The essential moral self

Nina Strohminger, Shaun Nichols

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

188 Scopus citations

Abstract

It has often been suggested that the mind is central to personal identity. But do all parts of the mind contribute equally? Across five experiments, we demonstrate that moral traits-more than any other mental faculty-are considered the most essential part of identity, the self, and the soul. Memory, especially emotional and autobiographical memory, is also fairly important. Lower-level cognition and perception have the most tenuous connection to identity, rivaling that of purely physical traits. These findings suggest that folk notions of personal identity are largely informed by the mental faculties affecting social relationships, with a particularly keen focus on moral traits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-171
Number of pages13
JournalCognition
Volume131
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2014

Keywords

  • Morality
  • Numerical identity
  • Personal identity
  • Self

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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