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Thursday, June 20, 2019

Moral Judgment Toward Relationship Betrayals and Those Who Commit Them

Dylan Selterman Amy Moors Sena Koleva
Created on January 18, 2019


In three experimental studies (total N = 1,056), we examined moral judgments toward relationship betrayals, and how these judgments depended on whether characters and their actions were perceived to be pure and loyal compared to the level of harm caused. In Studies 1 and 2 the focus was confessing a betrayal, while in Study 3 the focus was on the act of sexual infidelity. Perceptions of harm/care were inconsistently and less strongly associated with moral judgment toward the behavior or the character, relative to perceptions of purity and loyalty, which emerged as key predictors of moral judgment across all studies. Our findings demonstrate that a diversity of cognitive factors play a key role in moral perception of relationship betrayals.

Here is part of the Discussion:

Some researchers have argued that perception of a harmed victim is the cognitive prototype by which people conceptualize immoral behavior (Gray et al.,2014).This perspective explains many phenomena within moral psychology.  However, other psychological templates may apply regarding sexual and relational behavior, and that purity and loyalty play a key role in explaining how people arrive at moral judgments toward sexual and relational violations. In conclusion, the current research adds to ongoing and fruitful research regarding the underlying psychological mechanisms involved in moral judgment. Importantly, the current studies extend our knowledge of moral judgments into the context of specific close relationship and sexual contexts that many people experience.

The research is here.