Moral Common Sense: Examining the False Consensus Effect of Morality in Japan

  •  Akiko Matsuo    
  •  Hideya Kitamura    
  •  Naomi Yui    
  •  Shin-ichiro Kumagaya    


Researchers have continually studied the classical false consensus effect (FCE) and documented its robustness across specific contexts. Under the influence of the FCE, people create an illusory perception of others around them and maintain this perception, believing that own opinion serves as “common sense.” Because shared morality plays an important role in group contexts, people’s (illusory) perceptions about how much their morality is shared should be clarified. Therefore, the present study investigated the presence of the FCE in the domain of morality based on the Moral Foundations Theory (MFT). The pilot study required participants to rank the five moral foundations according to their perceived level of importance and estimate others’ perceived importance of the same five foundations. The Purity foundation of the MFT was not sufficient to identify Japanese values on religion and cleanliness. Thus, the main study supplemented the pilot study with the Purity Orientation–Pollution Avoidance Scale (POPA). The importance given to the moral foundations among participants in the main study was measured using both the Moral Foundations Questionnaire (MFQ) and the POPA. The results from both studies showed that the FCE occurs in the moral domain among Japanese individuals. Furthermore, the use of the POPA in addition to the MFQ can benefit future research on morality in cultures that are not Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic such as Japan. The present research will contribute significantly to further understanding the role of morality in group contexts.

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