Further Finding About Morality: Backpack-Induced Morality

Morality may involve more than the relative lengths of a person’s fingers. Behold a soon-to-be-published study about backpacks:

francesaThe Burden of Guilt: Heavy Backpacks, Light Snacks, and Enhanced Morality,” Maryam Kouchaki, Francesca Gino [pictured, tinily, here], and Ata Jami, in press, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2013. The authors, at Harvard University and the University of Central Florida, explain:

“we argue that the physical experience of weight is associated with the emotional experience of guilt and thus that weight intensifies the experience of guilt. Across four studies, we found that participants who wore a heavy backpack experienced higher levels of guilt as compared to those who wore a light backpack. Additionally, wearing a heavy backpack affected participants’ behavior. Specifically, it led them to be more likely to choose healthy snacks over guilt-inducing ones and boring tasks over fun ones. It also led participants to cheat less. Importantly, self-reported guilt mediated the effect of wearing a heavy backpack on these behaviors. Our studies also examined the mechanism behind these effects and demonstrated that participants processed guilty stimuli more fluently when experiencing physical weight.”

(Thanks to HBS Working Knowledge for bringing this to our attention.)

Some or all of the authors plan to discuss this in a somewhat public setting on January 28, 2013.