What is immoral? Chinese vs. Western lay prototypes of immoral behaviors

Emma Ellen Kathrina BUCHTEL, Yanjun GUAN, Yanjie SU

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


What kinds of behaviors do Chinese and Westerners consider immoral? In two studies, cultural differences in the lay prototype of immoral behaviors in Mainland China and the West (USA, Canada, and Australia) were examined. In Study 1, 449 university students in four cities across Canada, Australia, and China listed 1132 examples of immoral behavior. In Study 2, 562 student and internet-recruited participants from Mainland China and the USA rated the typicality of the most commonly mentioned behaviors from within-culture Study 1 results. Factor analysis showed that for US participants, typical immoral behaviors fell into categories of vicious harm, criminal behavior, taking advantage of others, promiscuity, and being self-centered/uncaring; in Mainland China, salient categories were being unfilial, taking advantage of others, criminal behavior, un-civic behavior, and being self-centered/uncaring. Findings suggest that the meaning of “immorality” centers more on harming persons for Westerners, and more on affecting one’s social fabric for Chinese.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015


Buchtel, E. E., Guan, Y., & Su, Y. (2015, February). What is immoral? Chinese vs. Western lay prototypes of immoral behaviors. Paper presented at The Society for Personality and Social Psychology 16th Annual Convention, Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, Long Beach, USA.

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