Interpersonal Judgments: Moral Responsibility and Blame

Ethics and Behavior 21 (1):35-48 (2011)
Abstract
A deterministic perspective, believing choices are a function of hereditary and environmental factors, could theoretically impact perceived moral responsibility and lead to decreased blame in judging others. However, little consistent support has been found relating individual differences in deterministic attitudes to blame/tolerance for others. Perhaps, though, providing information regarding past background hardships affecting an individual's current lifestyle could potentially mediate harsh moralistic judgments of that individual. In the two studies reported here, we further explored the relation of free will/determinism scales to attitudes toward others as well as the effect of manipulating background information on the assignment of blame. As in previous research, little support was found for the relation of deterministic attitudes to tolerance toward others. However, judgments following manipulated information about hypothetical target persons supported the conclusion that target individuals are blamed less and given more sympathy if more information related to previous hardships is provided. In addition, in the second study perceived similarity to a target individual was associated with decreased blame/greater sympathy for a target with alcohol abuse problems
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