Patterns of Moral Judgment Derive From Nonmoral Psychological Representations
Version of Record online: 31 JAN 2011
Copyright © 2011 Cognitive Science Society, Inc.
Volume 35, Issue 6, pages 1052–1075, August 2011
How to Cite
Cushman, F. and Young, L. (2011), Patterns of Moral Judgment Derive From Nonmoral Psychological Representations. Cognitive Science, 35: 1052–1075. doi: 10.1111/j.1551-6709.2010.01167.x
- Issue online: 26 JUL 2011
- Version of Record online: 31 JAN 2011
- Received 5 January 2010; received in revised form 15 October 2010; Accepted 19 October 2010
- Theory of mind;
- Doctrine of double effect;
- Doctrine of doing and allowing;
- Omission bias
Ordinary people often make moral judgments that are consistent with philosophical principles and legal distinctions. For example, they judge killing as worse than letting die, and harm caused as a necessary means to a greater good as worse than harm caused as a side-effect (Cushman, Young, & Hauser, 2006). Are these patterns of judgment produced by mechanisms specific to the moral domain, or do they derive from other psychological domains? We show that the action/omission and means/side-effect distinctions affect nonmoral representations and provide evidence that their role in moral judgment is mediated by these nonmoral psychological representations. Specifically, the action/omission distinction affects moral judgment primarily via causal attribution, while the means/side-effect distinction affects moral judgment via intentional attribution. We suggest that many of the specific patterns evident in our moral judgments in fact derive from nonmoral psychological mechanisms, and especially from the processes of causal and intentional attribution.