The relational logic of moral inference

Molly J. Crockett, Jim A.C. Everett, Maureen Gill, Jenifer Z. Siegel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

15 Scopus citations


How do we make inferences about the moral character of others? Here we review recent work on the cognitive mechanisms of moral inference and impression updating. We show that moral inference follows basic principles of Bayesian inference, but also departs from the standard Bayesian model in ways that may facilitate the maintenance of social relationships. Moral inference is not only sensitive to whether people make moral decisions, but also to features of decisions that reveal their suitability as a relational partner. Together these findings suggest that moral inference follows a relational logic: people form and update moral impressions in ways that are responsive to the demands of ongoing social relationships and particular social roles. We discuss implications of these findings for theories of moral cognition and identify new directions for research on human morality and person perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Experimental Social Psychology
EditorsBertram Gawronski
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
Number of pages64
ISBN (Print)9780128245798
StatePublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameAdvances in Experimental Social Psychology
ISSN (Print)0065-2601

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology


  • Character
  • Impression formation
  • Inference
  • Judgment
  • Mentalizing
  • Morality
  • Perception
  • Social cognition


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