The Strategic Role of Moral Emotions

The dominant theoretical framework in economics and several other disciplines assumes that people are deeply selfish. Yet many people refrain from cheating even when there is no possibility of being detected and punished. Such restraint, which appears driven largely by moral emotions, can be indirectly advantageous because external observers can often make surprisingly accurate character assessments. In situations that require trust, for example, someone believed to be motivated by moral emotions can be an extremely valuable team member.

The talk is part of the international conference “Why Do We Believe in Self-Interst?” chaired by Susan Neiman. It took place at the Einstein Forum in Potsdam.