Moral evaluations occur quickly following heuristic-like intuitive processes without effortful
deliberation. There are several competing explanations for this. The ADC-model predicts
that moral judgment consists in concurrent evaluations of three different intuitive components:
the character of a person (Agent-component, A); their actions (Deed-component, D);
and the consequences brought about in the situation (Consequences-component, C).
Thereby, it explains the intuitive appeal of precepts from three dominant moral theories (virtue
ethics, deontology, and consequentialism), and flexible yet stable nature of moral judgment.
Insistence on single-component explanations has led to many centuries of debate as
to which moral precepts and theories best describe (or should guide) moral evaluation. This
study consists of two large-scale experiments and provides a first empirical investigation of
predictions yielded by the ADC model. We use vignettes describing different moral situations
in which all components of the model are varied simultaneously. Experiment 1 (withinsubject
design) shows that positive descriptions of the A-, D-, and C-components of moral
intuition lead to more positive moral judgments in a situation with low-stakes. Also, interaction
effects between the components were discovered. Experiment 2 further investigates
these results in a between-subject design. We found that the effects of the A-, D-, and Ccomponents
vary in strength in a high-stakes situation. Moreover, sex, age, education, and
social status had no effects. However, preferences for precepts in certain moral theories
(PPIMT) partially moderated the effects of the A- and C-component. Future research on
moral intuitions should consider the simultaneous three-component constitution of moral
judgment.

 

Dubljević V, Sattler S, Racine E. Deciphering moral intuition: How agents, deeds,
and consequences influence moral judgment. PLoS ONE, 2018;13(10):
e0204631. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0204631
Download