Moral contagion attitudes towards potential organ transplants in British and Japanese adults

Bruce Hood , Nathalia Gjersoe, Katherine Donnelly, Shoji Itakura

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20 Citations (SciVal)


In two studies we investigated whether people evidence an effect of moral contamination with respect to hypothetical organ transplants. This was achieved by asking participants to make judgements after presenting either positive or negative background information about the donor. In the first study, positive/negative background information had a corresponding effect on three judgements with attitudes to a heart transplant most pronounced by negative background information relative to good information and controls. This effect was replicated in the second study with both heart and liver transplantation. Negative effects were stronger than positive effects in all conditions consistent with a negativity bias, but again stronger with regards to organs than controls. These results confirm findings from surveys that reveal real patients are concerned about moral contamination following organ transplantation and show that this bias in evident even in hypothetical, non-life-threatening scenarios. In a third study we found a significantly stronger moral contagion effect in Japanese relative to English participants, suggesting that concerns about moral contagion may be moderated by culture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-286
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Cognition and Culture
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • contagion
  • cognitive bias
  • cross-cultural
  • organ transplantation
  • magical beliefs
  • naive biology


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