Beyond good and bad: Varieties of moral judgment

William Jiménez-Leal, Santiago Amaya, Samuel Murray, Sergio Barbosa

Research output: Working paper

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We argue that people regularly encounter situations characterized by the presence of moral conflicts among permissible options. These scenarios, which some have called morally charged situations, reflect perceived tensions between moral expectations and moral rights. Studying responses to such situations marks a departure from the common emphasis on sacrificial dilemmas and widespread use of single-dimension measures. In 6 experiments (n=1607), we show that people use a wide conceptual arsenal when assessing actions that can be described as suberogatory (bad but permissible) or supererogatory (good but not required). In Experiment 1 we find that people freely describe actions as suberogatory or supererogatory. Experiment 2 shows that they differentially assess these actions in terms of how permissible, optional, and good they considered them. Experiment 3 tests the use of these evaluative dimensions with sacrificial dilemmas. We found that differences between these categories did not emerge when people respond to dilemmas, even when controlling for trait utilitarian tendencies. By including judgments of blameworthiness and sanction, Experiments 4 and 5 provided additional evidence of the richness sub/super erogatory evaluations. In Experiment 6 people offered their own explanations of their responses. Qualitative analyses revealed that they frequently appeal to character traits, the presence of rights, and the absence of explicit duties. Taken together these results suggest a richer spectrum of both situations and concepts relevant to characterize moral judgment than moral psychologists up to this point have generally recognized.
Translated title of the contributionMás allá del bien y del mal: Variedades del juicio moral
Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages65
StatePublished - Feb 25 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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