The influence of intention, outcome and question-wording on children's and adults' moral judgments

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Abstract

The influence of intention and outcome information on moral judgments was investigated by telling children aged 4-8 years and adults (N=169) stories involving accidental harms (positive intention, negative outcome) or attempted harms (negative intention, positive outcome) from two studies (Helwig, Zelazo, & Wilson, 2001; Zelazo, Helwig, & Lau, 1996). When the original acceptability (wrongness) question was asked, the original findings were closely replicated: children’s and adults’ acceptability judgments, and children’s punishment judgments, were primarily outcome-based. However, when this question was rephrased, 4-5-year-olds’ judgments were approximately equally influenced by intention and outcome, and from 5-6 years they were primarily intention-based. These findings indicate that, for methodological reasons, children’s (and adults’) ability to make intention-based judgment has often been substantially underestimated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190–204
Number of pages15
JournalCognition
Volume157
Early online date17 Sep 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016

Keywords

  • Moral development
  • moral judgment
  • intention
  • outcome
  • replication
  • acceptability
  • punishment

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