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Sunday, February 21, 2021

Moral Judgment as Categorization (MJAC)

McHugh, C., et al. 
(2019, September 17). 


Observed variability and complexity of judgments of 'right' and 'wrong' cannot currently be readily accounted for within extant approaches to understanding moral judgment. In response to this challenge we present a novel perspective on categorization in moral judgment. Moral judgment as categorization (MJAC) incorporates principles of category formation research while addressing key challenges to existing approaches to moral judgment. People develop skills in making context-relevant categorizations. That is, they learn that various objects (events, behaviors, people etc.) can be categorized as morally ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Repetition and rehearsal results in reliable, habitualized categorizations. According to this skill formation account of moral categorization, the learning and the habitualization of the forming of moral categories, occurs within goal-directed activity that is sensitive to various contextual influences. By allowing for the complexity of moral judgments, MJAC offers greater explanatory power than existing approaches, while also providing opportunities for a diverse range of new research questions.


It is not terribly simple, the good guys are not always stalwart and true, and the bad guys are not easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats. Knowing right from wrong is not a simple process of applying an abstract principle to a particular situation. Decades of research in moral psychology have shown that our moral judgments can vary from one situation to the next, while a growing body of evidence indicates that people cannot always provide reasons for their moral judgments. Understanding the making of moral judgments requires accounting for the full complexity and variability of our moral judgments. MJAC provides a framework for studying moral judgment that incorporates this dynamism and context-dependency into its core assumptions. We have argued that this sensitivity to the dynamical and context-dependent nature of moral judgments provides MJAC with superior explanations for known moral phenomena while simultaneously providing MJAC with the power to explain a greater and more diverse range of phenomena than existing approaches.