Judging near and distant virtue and vice

Tal Eyal, Nira Liberman, Yaacov Trope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

We propose that people judge immoral acts as more offensive and moral acts as more virtuous when the acts are psychologically distant than near. This is because people construe more distant situations in terms of moral principles, rather than attenuating situation-specific considerations. Results of four studies support these predictions. Study 1 shows that more temporally distant transgressions (e.g., eating one's dead dog) are construed in terms of moral principles rather than contextual information. Studies 2 and 3 further show that morally offensive actions are judged more severely when imagined from a more distant temporal (Study 2) or social (Study 3) perspective. Finally, Study 4 shows that moral acts (e.g., adopting a disabled child) are judged more positively from temporal distance. The findings suggest that people more readily apply their moral principles to distant rather than proximal behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1204-1209
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume44
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2008

Keywords

  • Construal level theory
  • Moral judgment
  • Psychological distance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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