Skip to main content

On the Highway to Hell: Slippery Slope Perceptions in Judgments of Moral Character

Anderson, Rajen A., Ruisch, Benjam C., Pizarro, David A. (2023) On the Highway to Hell: Slippery Slope Perceptions in Judgments of Moral Character. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, . Article Number 1461672221. E-ISSN 1552-7433. (doi:10.1177/01461672221143022) (KAR id:99518)


Across four studies, we test the hypothesis that people exhibit “slippery slope” thinking in their judgments of moral character—that is, do observers judge that a person who behaves immorally will become increasingly immoral over time? In Study 1, we find that a person who commits an immoral act is judged as more likely to behave immorally and as having a worse character in the future than in the past. In Study 2, we find that it is the commission of an immoral act specifically—rather than merely attempting an immoral act—that drives this slippery slope effect. In Study 3, we demonstrate that observers judge the moral agent as more likely to commit acts of greater severity further in time after the initial immoral act. In Study 4, we find that this effect is driven by an anticipated corrupting of moral character, related to perceptions of the agent’s guilt.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1177/01461672221143022
Uncontrolled keywords: Social Psychology; morality; slippery slope; intentionality; moral character
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Funders: University of Kent (
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Depositing User: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2023 12:43 UTC
Last Modified: 01 Feb 2023 16:03 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Ruisch, Benjam C..

Creator's ORCID:
CReDIT Contributor Roles:
  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.