Yudkin, D. A., Prosser, A. M. B., & Crockett, M. J. (2018).
Emotion. Advance online publication.
Recently proposed models of moral cognition suggest that people’s judgments of harmful acts are influenced by their consideration both of those acts’ consequences (“outcome value”), and of the feeling associated with their enactment (“action value”). Here we apply this framework to judgments of prosocial behavior, suggesting that people’s judgments of the praiseworthiness of good deeds are determined both by the benefit those deeds confer to others and by how good they feel to perform. Three experiments confirm this prediction. After developing a new measure to assess the extent to which praiseworthiness is influenced by action and outcome values, we show how these factors make significant and independent contributions to praiseworthiness. We also find that people are consistently more sensitive to action than to outcome value in judging the praiseworthiness of good deeds, but not harmful deeds. This observation echoes the finding that people are often insensitive to outcomes in their giving behavior. Overall, this research tests and validates a novel framework for understanding moral judgment, with implications for the motivations that underlie human altruism.