A Theory of Moral Praise

Rajen A. Anderson, Molly J. Crockett, David A. Pizarro

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


How do people judge whether someone deserves moral praise for their actions? In contrast to the large literature on moral blame, work on how people attribute praise has, until recently, been scarce. However, there is a growing body of recent work from a variety of subfields in psychology (including social, cognitive, developmental, and consumer) suggesting that moral praise is a fundamentally unique form of moral attribution and not simply the positive moral analogue of blame attributions. A functional perspective helps explain asymmetries in blame and praise: we propose that while blame is primarily for punishment and signaling one's moral character, praise is primarily for relationship building.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)694-703
Number of pages10
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


  • attribution
  • blame
  • moral character
  • praise
  • responsibility


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