We are grateful to Jonathan Haidt and to an anonymous referee for Mind & Language for many helpful suggestions on an earlier draft of this paper.
Harm, Affect, and the Moral/Conventional Distinction
Article first published online: 23 MAR 2007
2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Mind & Language
Volume 22, Issue 2, pages 117–131, April 2007
How to Cite
KELLY, D., STICH, S., HALEY, K. J., ENG, S. J. and FESSLER, D. M. T. (2007), Harm, Affect, and the Moral/Conventional Distinction. Mind & Language, 22: 117–131. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0017.2007.00302.x
- Issue published online: 23 MAR 2007
- Article first published online: 23 MAR 2007
Abstract: The moral/conventional task has been widely used to study the emergence of moral understanding in children and to explore the deficits in moral understanding in clinical populations. Previous studies have indicated that moral transgressions, particularly those in which a victim is harmed, evoke a signature pattern of responses in the moral/conventional task: they are judged to be serious, generalizable and not authority dependent. Moreover, this signature pattern is held to be pan-cultural and to emerge early in development. However, almost all the evidence for these claims comes from studies using harmful transgressions of the sort that primary school children might commit in the schoolyard. In a study conducted on the Internet, we used a much wider range of harm transgressions, and found that they do not evoke the signature pattern of responses found in studies using only schoolyard transgressions. Paralleling other recent work, our study provides preliminary grounds for skepticism regarding many conclusions drawn from earlier research using the moral/conventional task.