Moral Structure Falls Out of General Event Structure

Psychological Inquiry 23 (2):198-205 (2012)
The notion of agency has been explored within research in moral psychology and, quite separately, within research in linguistics. Moral psychologists have suggested that agency attributions play a role in moral judgments, while linguists have argued that agency attributions play a role in syntactic intuitions. To explore the connection between these two lines of research, we report the results of an experiment in which we manipulate syntactic cues for agency and show a corresponding impact on moral judgments. This result suggests that the two effects observed previously — in morality and in syntax — might each be a reflection of a more general capacity to understand event structure.
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