The Line Between Right and Wrong

Posted on October 6, 2018

A 2014 study suggested a model of moral judgement known as the Agent Deed Consequence (ADC). This theory suggests that people consider 3 factors when deciding whether to call their judgment moral or non-moral – ‘agent’ refers to the actor who is carrying out the deed; the ‘deed’ refers to the action or behavior in the situation; and ‘consequence’ refers to the outcome of the behavior. Primarily, the researchers wanted to investigate when people judge that the ends justify the means, and when it does not.

A common example would be when people choose not to tell the truth. This action may be deemed immoral when it is done with harmful intent and causes harm to others, whereas in other times, it may be considered a necessary evil or not even considered a matter of morality.

In the proposed study, researchers designed a series of scenarios that could cater to both lay people and professional philosophers. In the first part of the study, participants evaluated a series of situations in which the situation consisted of relatively low-cost scenarios, i.e. outcomes of the situations were relatively mild. However, in the second part of the study, the participants assessed more extreme situations in which some of them included the risks of severe injury or even death.

The results showed that in the first part of the study, participants judged the action or behavior to be more important in deciding whether to give a moral or non-moral judgment, i.e. the outcome of the situation was deigned less important than the agent’s intention and behavior when considering the morality of the situation.

The opposite effect was observed for more serious situations – in the second part of the study, the outcome of the situation was considered the most important factor in deciding whether to call a situation moral or non-moral. People tend to find sufficient justification in using disputable means, e.g. violence, to achieve a goal when the
alternative involved harm to others.

More significantly, this study revealed that philosophers made the same moral judgments as the general public, which highlighted that moral intuition may be more of an innate, biological mechanism a sociocultural one.


Source material from Medical Xpress

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