Are Morally Good Actions Ever Free?
62 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2017 Last revised: 8 Apr 2019
Date Written: August 18, 2017
Research has shown that people ascribe more responsibility to morally bad actions than both morally good and neutral ones, suggesting that people do not attribute responsibility to morally good actions. The present work demonstrates that this is not so: People ascribe more free will to morally good than neutral actions (Studies 1a-1b, Mini Meta). Studies 2a-2b distinguished the underlying motives for ascribing freedom to morally good and bad actions. Free will ascriptions for immoral actions were driven predominantly by affective responses (i.e., punitive desires, moral outrage, and perceived severity of the crime). Free will judgments for morally good actions were similarly driven by affective responses (i.e., reward desires, moral uplift, and perceived generosity), but also more pragmatic considerations (perceived utility of reward, counternormativity of the action, and required willpower). Morally good actions may be more carefully considered, leading to generally weaker, but more contextually sensitive free will judgments.
Keywords: free will, morality, praise, blame, motivated cognition, affect, punishment, reward, responsibility
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation