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Attitudinal Influences on Moral Judgments

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Johanna M Lukate.

Tea and coffee will be served from 12.30 onwards at the Nick Macintosh Seminar Room for attendees only.

Moral judgments are a joint product of affective intuitions and moral reasoning. Because intuitions result from automatic processes, while reasoning requires controlled processes, the former typically dominate moral judgments, which makes them crucial for the understanding of moral controversies and the resulting social divisions. Discrete emotions and mood are frequently studied sources of affect to the neglect of attitudes, which are also crucial and ubiquitous bases of affect. I present two lines of studies showing attitudinal influences on moral judgments. The first line showed that moral judgments of other persons are biased by the observer’s self-interest. Specifically, (1) others’ dishonest behavior is evaluated leniently (up to positive), when the observer profits from this dishonesty, (2) actors bringing profits are liked by the observer, (3) increased liking of such actors completely mediates the increases in moral evaluations, and (4) observers truly believe in their biased moral judgments and trust in the cheater who brings profits. The second line of research showed that mere liking heavily biases moral judgments. Specifically, increases in liking due to morally irrelevant reasons, such as beliefs similarity, mimicry or mere exposure, lead to increased judgments of moral character of those well-liked persons. This positivity does not spill over to judgments of competence, nor is it attenuated by accountability. I conclude that although moral judgments are widely believed to be objective, their actual premises tend to be very subjective, which contributes to the un-tractability of moral disputes.

This talk is part of the Social and Developmental Psychology (SDP) Seminar Series series.

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