A social cognitive developmental perspective on moral judgment

in Evolved Morality: The Biology and Philosophy of Human Conscience
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Moral judgment constitutes an important aspect of adults’ social interactions. How do adults’ moral judgments develop? We discuss work from cognitive and social psychology on adults’ moral judgment, and we review developmental research to illuminate its origins. Work in these fields shows that adults make nuanced moral judgments based on a number of factors, including harm aversion, and that the origins of such judgments lie early in development. We begin by reviewing evidence showing that distress signals can cue moral judgments but are not necessary for moral judgment to occur. Next, we discuss findings demonstrating that both children and adults distinguish moral violations from violations of social norms, and we highlight the influence of both moral rules and social norms on moral judgment. We also discuss the influence of actors’ intentions on moral judgment. Finally, we offer some closing thoughts on potential similarities between moral cognition and reasoning about other ideologies.

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