Jim A. C. Everett, David A. Pizarro, M. J. Crockett.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2016
Moral judgments play a critical role in motivating and enforcing human cooperation. Research on the proximate mechanisms of moral judgments highlights the importance of intuitive, automatic processes in forming such judgments. Intuitive moral judgments often share characteristics with deontological theories in normative ethics, which argue that certain acts (such as killing) are absolutely wrong, regardless of their consequences. Why do moral intuitions typically follow deontological prescriptions, as opposed to those of other ethical theories? Here we test a functional explanation for this phenomenon by investigating whether agents who express deontological moral judgments are more valued as social partners. Across five studies we show that people who make characteristically deontological judgments (as opposed to judgments that align with other ethical traditions) are preferred as social partners, perceived as more moral and trustworthy, and trusted more in economic games. These findings provide empirical support for a partner choice account for why intuitive moral judgments often align with deontological theories.
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