Beliefs About the True Self Explain Asymmetries Based on Moral Judgment

Cognitive Science 39 (1):96-125 (2015)
Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
Past research has identified a number of asymmetries based on moral judgments. Beliefs about what a person values, whether a person is happy, whether a person has shown weakness of will, and whether a person deserves praise or blame seem to depend critically on whether participants themselves find the agent's behavior to be morally good or bad. To date, however, the origins of these asymmetries remain unknown. The present studies examine whether beliefs about an agent's “true self” explain these observed asymmetries based on moral judgment. Using the identical materials from previous studies in this area, a series of five experiments indicate that people show a general tendency to conclude that deep inside every individual there is a “true self” calling him or her to behave in ways that are morally virtuous. In turn, this belief causes people to hold different intuitions about what the agent values, whether the agent is happy, whether he or she has shown weakness of will, and whether he or she deserves praise or blame. These results not only help to answer important questions about how people attribute various mental states to others; they also contribute to important theoretical debates regarding how moral values may shape our beliefs about phenomena that, on the surface, appear to be decidedly non-moral in nature.
PhilPapers/Archive ID
Revision history
Archival date: 2016-03-23
View upload history
References found in this work BETA
The Moral Problem.Smith, Michael
The Foucault Reader.Foucault, Michel & Rabinow, Paul

View all 36 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
The True Self: A Psychological Concept Distinct From the Self.Strohminger, Nina; Knobe, Joshua & Newman, George
Teleological Essentialism.Rose, David & Nichols, Shaun
Consistent Belief in a Good True Self in Misanthropes and Three Interdependent Cultures.De Freitas, Julian; Sarkissian, Hagop; E. Newman, George; Grossmann, Igor; De Brigard, Felipe; Luco, Andres & Knobe, Joshua
Normative Judgments and Individual Essence.De Freitas, Julian; Tobia, Kevin P.; Newman, George E. & Knobe, Joshua

View all 26 citations / Add more citations

Added to PP index

Total views
456 ( #8,976 of 49,074 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
33 ( #21,263 of 49,074 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks to external links.