Are Morally Good Actions Ever Free?

62 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2017 Last revised: 8 Apr 2019

See all articles by Cory Clark

Cory Clark

Florida State University

Adam B. Shniderman

University of Michigan Law School

Jamie Luguri

University of Chicago

Roy Baumeister

Florida State University - College of Arts & Sciences

Peter H. Ditto

University of California, Irvine - School of Social Ecology

Date Written: August 18, 2017

Abstract

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

Clark, Cory and Shniderman, Adam B. and Luguri, Jamie and Baumeister, Roy and Ditto, Peter H., Are Morally Good Actions Ever Free? (August 18, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3022276 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3022276

Cory Clark (Contact Author)

Florida State University ( email )

Tallahasse, FL 32306
United States

Adam B. Shniderman

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States

Jamie Luguri

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Roy Baumeister

Florida State University - College of Arts & Sciences ( email )

United States

Peter H. Ditto

University of California, Irvine - School of Social Ecology ( email )

226B Social Ecology 1
Irvine, CA 92697
United States

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