Morality and competence in perception of experts
Abstract On the basis of previous research, we hypothesized that morality and competence are the basic dimensions for describing and judging the particular social group known as experts. However, contrary to some of the literature claiming that morality predominates in social perception and is unconditionally positive, we assume that when people form evaluative judgments of experts, they are guided primarily by experts’ competence. We tested this assumption in three experiments (N = 413) in which we asked people to form a general impression of financial advisors (Study 1), car mechanics (Study 2), and physicians (Study 3). The results confirmed our hypotheses; it was the experts’ competence that determined the valence of their general evaluative impression, whereas their morality only modified the intensity of these evaluations. We explain these findings with reference to the functionalist standpoint. We also obtained some unexpected results showing that information about experts’ behavior in one dimension may influence the evaluation of their attributes in a second dimension. This effect was stronger for competence.