The deflationary model of harm and moral wrongdoing: A rejoinder to Royzman & Borislow

Miklós Kürthy, Paulo Sousa

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With a series of studies, Royzman and Borislow (2022) purport to show that extant models about the conditions under which harmful actions are deemed morally wrong do not have explanatory power—for any proposed condition, various harmful actions meet the condition but are not deemed immoral. And they reach the following conclusion: judgments of moral wrongdoing in the context of harmful actions (or judgments of moral wrongdoing more generally) are not reducible to an explanatory template. However, they did not address the main claim of the deflationary model of harm and moral wrongdoing, which is that intuitions of injustice connect harmful actions to judgments of moral wrongdoing (Sousa & Piazza, 2014). Our first study adjusts Royzman and Borislow’ design to include a measure of perceived injustice, while our second elaborates their design to manipulate perceived injustice. The results undermine their conclusion and support the deflationary model, which we further refine here in light of the results of Royzman and Borislow's studies and ours.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105599
Early online date22 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • Harm
  • Injustice
  • Moral judgments
  • Social cognition
  • Wrongdoing

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