Mental states are more important in evaluating moral than conventional violations

Abstract

A perpetrator’s mental state – whether she had mens rea or a “guilty mind” – typically plays an important role in evaluating wrongness and assigning punishment. In two experiments, we find that this role for mental states is weaker in evaluating conventional violations relative to moral violations. We also find that this diminished role for mental states may be associated with the fact that conventional violations are wrong by virtue of having violated a rule, whereas moral violations are also wrong inherently.


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