The Impact of Intentions and Omissions On Moral Judgments Across Domains
Blahunka, Natalie Jane. “The Impact of Intentions and Omissions On Moral Judgments Across Domains”, Boston College, 2014. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/bc-ir:102257.
Moral psychologists disagree over whether descriptively different moral violations represent distinct cognitive domains or are in fact unified by common cognitive mechanisms. The Moral Foundations Theory (MFT; Haidt, 2007) offers five different domains of moral transgressions: Harm/Care, Fairness/Reciprocity, Ingroup/Loyalty, Authority/Respect, and Purity/Sanctity. Both intentionality and omission bias (e.g. omissions such as letting someone die being judged less harshly than actions such as killing someone) have been shown to impact moral judgments; however, it remains unclear how these rules modulate judgments across moral transgressions of various types. Here, we investigate the role of intentionality and omission bias across different moral violations to determine if the divide between moral domains represent true cognitive, (as opposed to descriptive), differences. We utilized a 2 x 2 x 5 design to create stories across the 5 domains posited by MFT that were intentional/accidental cases of actions/omissions. Importantly, this study also looks at four distinct moral judgments of wrongness, responsibility, blameworthiness, and punishment to assess the role of these rules across judgments. We found that intent and action play different roles across judgments, particularly when comparing wrongness and punishment. Intent seems to matter more for wrongness, whereas action matters more for punishment. Further, these rules also differ across domains. We found that intent matters more for the individualizing foundations of harm and fairness (versus the binding foundations of ingroup, authority, and purity) in judgments of wrongness and punishment. The difference between action and omission is also more important for the individualizing foundations for punishment. These data suggest intentionality and omission bias manifest themselves uniquely across moral judgments and domains and provide evidence that there are meaningful differences between domains.