Title

Actor Perspective and Moral Reasoning: Do Levels of Criminal Thinking Moderate This Relationship Among Non-Criminals?

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-1-2021

Department

Educational Research and Administration

School

Education

Abstract

A large body of literature has explored moral decision-making; however, fewer have examined the explicit role of criminal thinking (CT). This study sought to determine whether moral judgment is influenced by CT in the general population and if this relationship further depends on the type of scenario (i.e., immoral vs. illegal) and/or the actor orientation (i.e., self vs. other). Using a sample of 239 U.S. adults and hypothetical case vignettes, results showed that those who endorsed higher levels of CT rated socially deviant behaviors, regardless of the type of scenario, as significantly more morally acceptable than participants who endorsed lower levels of CT. However, this difference was more pronounced for the immoral dilemma compared to the illegal dilemma. Specifically, proactive CT processes led to higher justification for the immoral dilemma. Neither general nor reactive CT were significantly associated with moral reasoning for the illegal dilemma. Among a mostly non-offending sample, this finding makes sense as it appears participants’ levels of criminal thinking may have been high enough to rationalize an immoral dilemma but not so high as to allow for rationalization of an illegal dilemma. No significant differences were found concerning actor orientation. This research not only has important implications for better understanding traits associated with moral decision-making in everyday choices, but it may also have practical application in legal contexts. However, further research is needed in these contexts. Findings were also limited by a lack of racial diversity among participants.

Publication Title

Journal of Forensic Sciences

Volume

66

Issue

3

First Page

992

Last Page

1002

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