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Indignation: Psychology, Politics, Law

Daniel Kahneman

Princeton University

Cass R. Sunstein

Harvard Law School

U of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 346
NEUROBIOLOGY OF HUMAN VALUES, Jean-Pierre P. Changeux et. al., eds., 2005
U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 171

Moral intuitions operate in much the same way as other intuitions do; what makes the moral domain is distinctive is its foundations in the emotions, beliefs, and response tendencies that define indignation. The intuitive system of cognition, System I, is typically responsible for indignation; the more reflective system, System II, may or may not provide an override. Moral dumbfounding and moral numbness are often a product of moral intuitions that people are unable to justify. An understanding of indignation helps to explain the operation of the many phenomena of interest to law and politics: the outrage heuristic, the centrality of harm, the role of reference states, moral framing, and the act-omission distinction. Because of the operation of indignation, it is extremely difficult for people to achieve coherence in their moral intuitions. Legal and political institutions usually aspire to be deliberative, and to pay close attention to System II; but even in deliberative institutions, System I can make some compelling demands.

Note: This paper was published under the title, "Cognitive Psychology of Moral Intuitions".

Number of Pages in PDF File: 28

Keywords: indignation, punishment, moral heuristics

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Date posted: July 26, 2007  

Suggested Citation

Kahneman, Daniel and Sunstein, Cass R., Indignation: Psychology, Politics, Law. U of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 346; NEUROBIOLOGY OF HUMAN VALUES, Jean-Pierre P. Changeux et. al., eds., 2005; U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 171. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1002707

Contact Information

Daniel Kahneman
Princeton University ( email )
Department of Psychology 3-2-1 Green Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544
United States
609-258-2280 (Phone)
609-258-2809 (Fax)
Cass R. Sunstein (Contact Author)
Harvard Law School ( email )
1575 Massachusetts Ave
Areeda Hall 225
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-2291 (Phone)
Feedback to SSRN

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