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Thursday, October 13, 2016

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

Gavin Nobes, Georgia Panagiotaki, Kimberley J. Bartholomew
Volume 157, December 2016, Pages 190–204


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 were based almost exclusively on outcome, and children’s punishment judgments were also 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 based considerably more on intention than outcome 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.

The article is here.