Wording effects in moral judgments

Journal Article (Journal Article)

As the study of moral judgments grows, it becomes imperative to compare results across studies in order to create unified theories within the field. These efforts are potentially undermined, however, by variations in wording used by different researchers. The current study sought to determine whether, when, and how variations in wording influence moral judgments. Online participants responded to 15 different moral vignettes (e.g., the trolley problem) using 1 of 4 adjectives: "wrong", "inappropriate", "forbidden", or "blameworthy". For half of the sample, these adjectives were preceded by the adverb "morally". Results indicated that people were more apt to judge an act as wrong or inappropriate than forbidden or blameworthy, and that disgusting acts were rated as more acceptable when "morally" was included. Although some wording differences emerged, effects sizes were small and suggest that studies of moral judgment with different wordings can legitimately be compared.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • O'Hara, RE; Sinnott-Armstrong, W; Sinnott-Armstrong, NA

Published Date

  • December 1, 2010

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 5 / 7

Start / End Page

  • 547 - 554

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1930-2975

Citation Source

  • Scopus