Construal level affects intuitive moral responses to narrative content


This study proposes that moral judgments of media content are not only related to intuitive moral domain salience and exemplars, but also to the processing state of the individual at the moment of exposure. An experiment manipulating construal level prior to exposure to a narrative text was conducted to test this proposal. The results suggest that evaluations of moral violations are modulated by construal level. High-level construal led to harsher, more consistent judgments of domain-violator morality, eliminating the effect of baseline moral intuitions. Low-level construal induced an apparent trade-off in moral evaluation strategy which is sensitive to both narrative outcome and domain salience. When domain violators were punished, intuitive moral salience was negatively correlated with moral evaluations; however, when domain violators were rewarded, the opposite trend emerged. These findings suggest that the strength and quality of moral intuitions are not robust to broader cognitive processes, but interact with them.

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