Individual differences in sensitivity to reward and punishment predict moral judgment

Adam B. Moore, Julianna Stevens, Andrew R. A. Conway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Dual process models of moral judgment propose that such judgments are produced by interacting neural systems: a controlled cognitive system and an automatic affective system. Individual differences in moral judgment may therefore arise from variation in cognitive control ability and/or from variation in affective sensitivity. Previous research indicates that individual differences in cognitive control, indexed by working memory capacity, predict moral judgment (Moore, Clark, & Kane, 2008). Here we replicate group level findings from Moore et al. (2008) and demonstrate that individual differences in sensitivity to reward and punishment are strong predictors of moral judgment. Higher reward sensitivity positively correlates with willingness to sacrifice one life to save multiple others and moderates the impact of self-interest on participants' judgments. Higher punishment sensitivity negatively correlates with willingness to kill, particularly when negative affective information is present. These results help to revise current dual process models of moral judgment. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)621-625
Number of pages5
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011


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