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Beliefs in moral luck: When and why blame hinges on luck

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Abstract

Belief in moral luck is represented in judgements that offenders should be held accountable for intent to cause harm as well as whether or not harm occurred. Scores on a measure of moral luck beliefs predicted judgements of offenders who varied in intent and the outcomes of their actions, although judgements overall were not consistent with abstract beliefs in moral luck. Prompting participants to consider alternative outcomes, particularly worse outcomes, reduced moral luck beliefs. Findings suggest that some people believe that offenders should be punished based on the outcome of their actions. Furthermore, prompting counterfactuals decreased judgements consistent with moral luck beliefs. The results have implications for theories of moral judgement as well as legal decision making.

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