Order Effects in Moral Judgment


Explaining moral intuitions is one of the hot topics of recent cognitive sciences. In the present article we focus on a factor that attracted surprisingly little attention so far, namely the temporal order in which moral scenarios are presented. We argue that previous research points to a systematic pattern of order effects that has been overlooked until now: Only judgments of actions that are normally regarded as morally acceptable are affected by the order of presentation. Additionally, this is only the case for dilemmas immediately preceded by a scenario where the proposed action was judged as morally unacceptable. We conducted an experiment that confirmed this pattern and allowed us to analyze the individual level responses it was generated by. We argue that investigating order effects is necessary for approaching a complete descriptive moral theory.

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