Moral self‐judgment is stronger for future than past actions

By Vilde Blomhoff Pedersen

20 May 2019 22:31

Moral self‐judgment is stronger for future than past actions

New published paper by Hallgeir Sjåstad and Roy F. Baumeister in the journal "Motivation and Emotion", titled "Moral self‐judgment is stronger for future than past actions".


When, if ever, would a person want to be held responsible for his or her choices? Across four studies (N=915), people favored more extreme rewards and punishments for their future than their past actions. This included thinking that they should receive more blame and punishment for future misdeeds than for past ones, and more credit and reward for future good deeds than for past ones. The tendency to moralize the future more than the past was mediated by anticipating (one’s own) emotional reactions and concern about one’s reputation, which was stronger in the future as well. The fndings ft the pragmatic view that people moralize the future partly to guide their choices and actions, such as by increasing their motivation to restrain selfsh impulses and build long-term cooperative relationships with others. People typically believe that the future is open and changeable, while the past is not. We conclude that the psychology of moral accountability has a strong future component.

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