Why do people think suicide is morally wrong?

Posted on January 28, 2014

Public surveys show many people view suicide as morally wrong. When you ask them why, they usually refer to the harm caused to the deceased's family and friends, and to the victim themselves. However, a fascinating new study uncovers evidence suggesting that a more important reason people feel suicide is morally wrong is because they see it as tainting the victim's soul. This is the case even for liberal non-religious people. The finding is another example of how our implicit moral judgments are often at odds with our conscious, explicitly stated moral reasoning.

Joshua Rottman and his colleagues presented 174 US participants (114 women; average age 21) online with eight fabricated obituaries that had the appearance of a real obituary published in a paper. The participants were mostly non-religious liberals. Half of them read obituaries about people killed by murder; the other half read obituaries for people killed by suicide.

After reading each obituary, the participants were asked to rate the death according to how morally wrong it was; how angry it made them feel; how disgusted it made them feel; how much harm had been done; and whether the victim's soul had been tainted.

The most revelatory finding is that the participants' ratings for the moral wrongness of suicides was not correlated with their ratings of the harm caused. Rather, their judgment of moral wrongness was correlated with their ratings of how much the victim's soul was tainted.

Click on the link below to read the full article

Category(s):Suicide Prevention

Source material from British Psychological Society