The effects of moral disengagement mechanisms on doping likelihood are mediated by guilt and moderated by moral traits


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Abstract

Objectives:We examined the effects of moral disengagement on doping likelihood and guilt, and determined whether the effects of moral disengagement on doping likelihood were mediated by guilt and moderated by moral traits.Design:We used an experimental design to compare the effects of moral disengagement mechanisms on doping likelihood and guilt in hypothetical situations.Method:Athletes indicated their doping likelihood and anticipated guilt in situations describing one of six moral disengagement mechanisms (moral justification, advantageous comparison, euphemistic labeling, distortion of consequences, displacement of responsibility, diffusion of responsibility) and in neutral (control) situations. They also completed measures of moral agency, identity, perfectionism, and values, to which we refer collectively as moral traits.Results:Doping likelihood was higher in all six moral disengagement situations compared to neutral situations. Anticipated guilt was lower in five moral disengagement situations (except euphemistic labeling) compared to neutral situations. Doping likelihood and anticipated guilt differed among the moral disengagement mechanisms. The effect of five moral disengagement mechanisms (except euphemistic labeling) on doping likelihood was mediated by anticipated guilt. The effect of overall moral disengagement on doping likelihood was moderated by moral agency, moral perfectionism and moral values.Conclusions:Moral disengagement increased the likelihood of doping and decreased affective self-sanction for doping as predicted by the theory of moral thought and action. The finding that the effects of moral disengagement on doping likelihood were moderated by moral agency, moral perfectionism and moral values highlights the role played by moral traits to restrain dishonest conduct in sport.

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