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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Are morally good actions ever free?

Cory J. Clark, Adam Shniderman, Jamie Luguri, Roy Baumeister, and Peter Ditto
SSRN Electronic Journal, August 2017


A large body of work has demonstrated that people ascribe more responsibility to morally bad actions than both morally good and morally neutral ones, creating the impression that people do not attribute responsibility to morally good actions. The present work demonstrates that this is not so: People attributed more free will to morally good actions than morally neutral ones (Studies 1a-1b). Studies 2a-2b distinguished the underlying motives for ascribing responsibility to morally good and bad actions. Free will ascriptions for morally bad actions were driven predominantly by affective punitive responses. Free will judgments for morally good actions were similarly driven by affective reward responses, but also less affectively-charged and more pragmatic considerations (the perceived utility of reward, normativity of the action, and willpower required to perform the action). Responsibility ascriptions to morally good actions may be more carefully considered, leading to generally weaker, but more contextually-sensitive free will judgments.

The research is here.