The Immorality Bias: Why “John Flurbed Mary” Seems Wrong Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Hester, Neil
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Seven experiments reveal the immorality bias: in morally ambiguous situations, people automatically jump to conclusions of wrongdoing. In Experiment 1, ambiguous acts (e.g., “A woman leaves work early to meet a man who is not her husband”) were rated as more immoral when people reported initial interpretations rather than most likely explanations. In Experiments 2-5, neutral nonsense actions (e.g., “John flurbed”) were judged as immoral to the extent that their context matched the dyadic moral template through the presence of a patient (“John flurbed Mary”; Experiments 2 and 3), intentionality (“John intentionally flurbed Mary”; Experiment 4), and suffering (“John intentionally flurbed Mary, who cried”; Experiment 5). The immorality bias is stronger under time pressure (Experiment 6), and process-dissociation reveals its automaticity (Experiment 7). The immorality bias suggests that intuitive moral judgment can be understood as a heuristic—one that hinges upon the dyadic moral template.
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  • In Copyright
  • Gordon, Peter
  • Gray, Kurt
  • Payne, B. Keith
  • Master of Arts
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2017

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