Eavesdropping on character: Assessing everyday moral behaviors

Kathryn L. Bollich, John M. Doris, Simine Vazire, Charles L. Raison, Joshua J. Jackson, Matthias R. Mehl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Despite decades of interest in moral character, comparatively little is known about moral behavior in everyday life. This paper reports a novel method for assessing everyday moral behaviors using the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR)—a digital audio-recorder that intermittently samples snippets of ambient sounds from people's environments—and examines the stability of these moral behaviors. In three samples (combined N = 186), participants wore an EAR over one or two weekends. Audio files were coded for everyday moral behaviors (e.g., showing sympathy, gratitude) and morally-neutral comparison language behaviors (e.g., use of prepositions, articles). Results indicate that stable individual differences in moral behavior can be systematically observed in daily life, and that their stability is comparable to the stability of neutral language behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-21
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Research in Personality
StatePublished - 2016


  • Ambulatory assessment
  • Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR)
  • Moral behavior
  • Moral character
  • Naturalistic observation
  • Personality
  • Temporal stability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Psychology(all)


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