Why belief in species purpose prompts moral condemnation of individuals who fail to fulfill that purpose

Casey Lewry, Deborah Kelemen, Tania Lombrozo

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Suppose humans exist in order to reproduce. Does it follow that an individual who chooses not to reproduce is committing a moral wrong? Past work suggests that, right or wrong, beliefs about species-level purpose are associated with moral condemnation of individuals who choose not to fulfill that purpose. Across two experiments we investigate why. Experiment 1 replicates a causal effect of species-level purpose on moral condemnation. Experiment 2 finds evidence that when a species is believed to exist to perform some action, people infer that the action is good for the species, and that this belief in turn supports moral condemnation of individuals who choose not to perform the action. Together, these findings shed light on how our descriptive understanding can sometimes shape our prescriptive judgments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages3068-3074
Number of pages7
StatePublished - 2021
Event43rd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society: Comparative Cognition: Animal Minds, CogSci 2021 - Virtual, Online, Austria
Duration: Jul 26 2021Jul 29 2021

Conference

Conference43rd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society: Comparative Cognition: Animal Minds, CogSci 2021
Country/TerritoryAustria
CityVirtual, Online
Period7/26/217/29/21

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Human-Computer Interaction

Keywords

  • causality
  • explanation
  • morality
  • teleology

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