Jamie S. Hughes
British Journal of Social Psychology
Although impartiality and concern for the greater good are lauded by utilitarian philosophies, it was predicted that when values conflict, those who acted impartially rather than partially would be viewed as less moral. Across four studies, using life-or-death scenarios and more mundane ones, support for the idea that relationship obligations are important in moral attribution was found. In Studies 1–3, participants rated an impartial actor as less morally good and his or her action as less moral compared to a partial actor. Experimental and correlational evidence showed the effect was driven by inferences about an actor's capacity for empathy and compassion. In Study 4, the relationship obligation hypothesis was refined. The data suggested that violations of relationship obligations are perceived as moral as long as strong alternative justifications sanction them. Discussion centres on the importance of relationships in understanding moral attributions.
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