The Information-Seeking Process of Moral Judgment

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The Information-Seeking Process of Moral Judgment
Guglielmo, Steven (creator)
Malle, Bertram (Director)
Krueger, Joachim (Reader)
Sloman, Steven (Reader)
Brown University. Psychology (sponsor)
Copyright Date
What information do people look for when making moral judgments about negative events? This question is important given its theoretical relevance (for psychological models that describe the determinants of moral judgments) and its practical relevance (for legal procedures, in which jurors must obtain information before arriving at a verdict). This dissertation examines information-seeking behavior from the theoretical perspective of the Path Model of Blame, a recent model that makes predictions about such behavior. The Path Model asserts that upon discovering a negative event, perceivers first consider causality information (whether a person caused the event), followed by intentionality information (whether the person brought about the event intentionally or unintentionally). For intentional events, perceivers then consider reasons information (why the person brought about the event); for unintentional events, they consider preventability information (whether the person could have prevented the event). This dissertation presents three studies, using two different methodologies, to assess people’s information-seeking behavior. In the “information offer” paradigm of Study 1, participants indicated as quickly as possible whether they wanted to receive different types of information offered by the experimenter. In the “information search” paradigm of Study 2, participants asked open-ended questions to obtain more information about whatever they wished to know. The results of both studies strongly supported the Path Model: regardless of which information they initially received, participants were fastest (Study 1) and most likely (Study 2) to seek information about the Path Model-specified subsequent concept. For example, if participants learned that a person caused a negative event, they were fastest to accept information about intentionality (Study 1), and they were most likely to ask questions about intentionality (Study 2). Study 3 showed that the results of Study 1 were upheld even when participants were under strong time pressure, indicating that the patterns predicted by the Path Model emerge even when people have little time to deliberate and must instead rely heavily on their intuitive responses. The results of this dissertation contribute to our understanding of the important yet neglected topic of information seeking in the emergence of moral judgment, and they highlight the success of the Path Model in explaining this behavior.
information search
Intentionality (Philosophy)
Thesis (Ph.D. -- Brown University (2012)
xiv, 179 p.


Guglielmo, Steven, "The Information-Seeking Process of Moral Judgment" (2012). Psychology Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.