First, they administered the color identification test with moral and immoral words. Then they asked the participants to hand-copy a very short first-person story about a workplace incident. Half the stories had ethical endings and half had unethical endings. Then they issued the color identification test again.A third study was performed, in which they asked people to rate several consumer products, some of which were cleaning products. Those who ranked cleaning products most highly turned out to be the individuals who had the hardest time identifying the colors when they didn't match the moral dimension of the words. This last test is associated with the Macbeth effect (abstract), where physical cleanliness is psychologically linked to concerns for moral purity.
For those who had little trouble with the color identification initially, exposure to the unethical story made it harder to identify word color when it didn't match the moral/immoral dimension of the word. "This shows you can bring this out in people," said Sherman. "We were struck how easily it could be moved around."
But even more interesting was that for those who struggled more with the identification in the first test, priming immorality made these participants better at naming the color. This was a bit puzzling.
Clore believes that for those already thinking about immorality, becoming even more attuned to it helped bring it to consciousness, where it could be controlled.
"If you make something obvious, people appear to be able to regulate it," he said. "What we find with emotion is that if you make something really salient, people are better at making proper discrimination. By making it salient, people got rid of it."
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