Inference of Trustworthiness from Intuitive Moral Judgments

Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Forthcoming

58 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2016 Last revised: 24 Feb 2016

Jim A.C Everett

University of Oxford

David A. Pizarro

Cornell University

Molly J Crockett

University of Oxford

Date Written: February 23, 2016

Abstract

Moral judgments play a critical role in motivating and enforcing human cooperation. Research on the proximate mechanisms of moral judgments highlights the importance of intuitive, automatic processes in forming such judgments. Intuitive moral judgments often share characteristics with deontological theories in normative ethics, which argue that certain acts (such as killing) are absolutely wrong, regardless of their consequences. Why do moral intuitions typically follow deontological prescriptions, as opposed to those of other ethical theories? Here we test a functional explanation for this phenomenon by investigating whether agents who express deontological moral judgments are more valued as social partners. Across five studies we show that people who make characteristically deontological judgments (as opposed to judgments that align with other ethical traditions) are preferred as social partners, perceived as more moral and trustworthy, and trusted more in economic games. These findings provide empirical support for a partner choice account for why intuitive moral judgments often align with deontological theories.

Keywords: morality, intuition, partner choice, deontological, utilitarian

Suggested Citation

Everett, Jim A.C and Pizarro, David A. and Crockett, Molly J, Inference of Trustworthiness from Intuitive Moral Judgments (February 23, 2016). Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2726330 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2726330

Jim A.C Everett (Contact Author)

University of Oxford ( email )

South Parks Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3UD
United Kingdom

David A. Pizarro

Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

Molly J Crockett

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

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