Justice sends mixed messages

When a bad deed makes headlines, the first thing we want to know is whether the perpetrator did it “on purpose.” Intention matters in our moral judgments, as we intuitively realize and many studies confirm. Now studies suggest that this focus on the cause of an event can distort our understanding of the damage done—and knowing harm has been inflicted can even change the way we view the victims, ascribing them pain and consciousness when none might exist…
The findings have implications for our understanding of complex moral issues such as abortion. People may consider fetuses to be mentally aware because they think abortion is immoral—not the other way around. “People often have knee-jerk moral intuitions and only come up with explanations for these intuitions after the fact,” says co-author Adrian Ward, a psychologist now at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “Many times apparent causal reasoning is simply post hoc justification.” –Melinda Wenner Moyer

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story in which something that was not intended is judged as if it were.

Journaling Prompt: Do you judge based on intention? How would your relationships be different if you didn’t?

Art Prompt: Intention and moral judgements

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about the tendency to judge based on intentions and how this has formed our current culture.

Photo Credit: Dan4th Nicholas on Flickr

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