Understanding Moral Judgments: The Role of the Agent’s Characteristics in Moral Evaluations

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Abstract
Traditional studies have shown that the moral judgments are influenced by many biasing factors, like the consequences of a behavior, certain characteristics of the agent who commits the act, or the words chosen to describe the behavior. In the present study we investigated a new factor that could bias the evaluation of morally relevant human behavior: the perceived similarity between the participants and the agent described in the moral scenario. The participants read a story about a driver who illegally overtook another car and hit a pedestrian who was crossing the street. The latter was taken to the hospital with a broken leg. The driver was described either as being similar to the participant (a student, 21 years old, the same gender as th­e participant) or dissimilar (a retired person, 69 years old, different gender as the participant). The results show that the participants from the increased similarity group expressed more lenient evaluations of the immorality of the driver’s behavior compared to the participants from the decreased similarity group. The results are discussed within a framework which puts emphasis on motivational and protective reasons.
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1584-174X
PhilPapers/Archive ID
ANTUMJ
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Archival date: 2017-01-06
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Cognitive Load Selectively Interferes with Utilitarian Moral Judgment.Greene, Joshua D.; Morelli, Sylvia A.; Lowenberg, Kelly; Nystrom, Leigh E. & Cohen, Jonathan D.

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2017-01-06

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