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Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Friday, October 25, 2019

Deciding Versus Reacting:Conceptions of Moral Judgment and the Reason-Affect Debate

Monin, B., Pizarro, D. A., & Beer, J. S. (2007).
Review of General Psychology, 11(2), 99–111.


Recent approaches to moral judgment have typically pitted emotion against reason. In an effort to move beyond this debate, we propose that authors presenting diverging models are considering quite different prototypical situations: those focusing on the resolution of complex dilemmas conclude that morality involves sophisticated reasoning, whereas those studying reactions to shocking moral violations find that morality involves quick, affect-laden processes. We articulate these diverging dominant approaches and consider three directions for future research (moral temptation, moral self-image, and lay understandings of morality) that we propose have not received sufficient attention as a result of the focus on these two prototypical situations within moral psychology.

Concluding Thoughts

Recent theorizing on the psychology of moral decision making has pitted deliberative reasoning against quick affect-laden intuitions. In this article, we propose a resolution to this tension by arguing that it results from a choice of different prototypical situations: advocates of the reasoning approach have focused on sophisticated dilemmas, whereas advocates of the intuition/emotion approach have focused on reactions to other people’s moral infractions. Arbitrarily choosing one or the other as the typical moral situation has a significant impact on one’s characterization of moral judgment.