Flourishing and The World Around: The Role of Personal and Contextual Moral Guidance in Improving The Socio-moral Outcomes of Living a Flourishing Life
Flourishing is commonly referred to as living an authentic life that directs one towards the highest levels of both hedonic well-being (i.e., feeling good) and eudaimonic well-being (i.e., functioning well). Numerous studies support the idea that a flourishing life relates to a wide array of advantageous personal outcomes. The corresponding literature, however, says very little about the social outcomes of flourishing. In the present research, I seek to inform the respective debate. Specifically, it is argued that flourishing, as currently conceptualized, does not provide moral guidance. As such, flourishing is agnostic when it comes to sociomoral outcomes. The critical qualifiers, I argue, are in the degree to which morality is central to the flourishing individual’s identity (i.e., internal moral guidance; Chapter 2), the ethicalness of the society they live in (i.e., external moral guidance; Chapter 3), or an interaction of both (Chapter 4). The collection of chapters in this thesis thus illustrates this argument. In Chapter 2, it was predicted that internal moral guidance (in the form of moral centrality) would influence the extent to which flourishing individuals’ express egoism and engage in its immoral behavioral correlates. Findings across four separate studies (1a-1d) generally support the idea that moral centrality moderates the relation between flourishing and egoism. In particular, while the association between flourishing and egoism is significant for individuals with high levels of moral centrality (e.g., measured or primed), flourishing is not significantly associated with egoism in individuals with low moral centrality. In Studies 1b and 1c, conditional indirect effect analyses revealed that the interaction effect of flourishing and moral centrality, through egoism, could be extended to immoral behaviors such as social misconduct and cheating. In Chapter 3, it was proposed that flourishers’ prosociality is contingent on the extent to which moral values are praised and practiced in a given society (i.e., there is an external source of moral guidance). To this end, study 2a and 2b used data from two separate rounds of European Social Survey (ESS) to examine the extent to which levels of corruption in society served as a moderator in the relation between flourishing and prosocial behavior. The results showed that corruption at the national level moderates the relation between flourishing and prosocial behaviors (i.e., helping distant others, charitable activities, and helping close others). The substantive interpretation is that corruption: a) inhibits the positive association between flourishing and prosocial behaviors that target distant others (i.e., helping distant others and charitable activities), and b) boosts the positive association between flourishing and helping close others. Chapter 4 sought to 1) test the relationship between flourishing and sociomoral outcomes in the specific context of organizations; and 2) investigate the interplay between internal and external sources of moral guidance in determining the socio-moral outcomes of flourishing. Three studies were subsequently conducted. The first posited that flourishing needs to be bound by some sort of moral guide in order to mitigate unethical pro-organizational behavior (UPB). The findings from study 3a supported a moderation hypothesis in that, flourishing was related to more willingness to engage in UPB the less central morality was to employees’ identity. The second hypothesized careerism as a mechanism between flourishing (in interaction with moral centrality) and UPB. The results from study 3b supported the predicted moderated mediation hypothesis. A final study (3c) examined the impact of context in such relations. In this investigation it was argued that internal moral guidance (in the form of moral centrality) would result in lower careerism and hence lower UPB, but only if not overridden by the pressures of a perceived self-interested organizational climate. The data from study 3c produced evidence consistent with our moderation mediation hypothesis. Together the findings from this chapter challenged the assumption that employee flourishing is automatically beneficial to both the organization and wider society, hence, providing additional evidence for the results reported in chapters 2 and 3. More importantly, the results of Study 3c also highlighted the interaction between internal and external sources of moral guidance in deciding flourishing individual’s choice of action. In sum, the empirical findings, collectively, painted a picture that by and large supports the central premise of this thesis: flourishing needs moral guidance to bring out the best from flourishers in their worldly interactions. The implications of these results are discussed, and suggestions for future research are made.
Advisor: Hunter, John A.; Filep, Sebastian
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Psychology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: flourishing; moral centrality; corruption; egoism; cheating; unethical pro-organizational behavior; prosocial behavior
Research Type: Thesis