Conflicting influences of justice motivations on moral judgments.Cogn Emot. 2020 06; 34(4):670-683.CE
Humans are motivated by justice concerns, yet vary in their reactions to observing or experiencing injustice. At a proximate level, approach and avoidance represent core fundamental motivational systems which have been proposed to be involved in two independent moral systems: a prescriptive system responsive to obligations ("shoulds") and a proscriptive system concerned with prohibitions ("should nots"). It is unclear whether these motivational systems or personal involvement better explain the influence of justice dispositions on moral judgments. To clarify this theoretical argument, two experiments examined how dispositional self-oriented and other-oriented justice sensitivity influence condemnation of prescriptive and proscriptive violations while manipulating perspective between-subject or within-subject. Participants rated the permissibility of everyday moral transgressions, from the perspective of the victim or a neutral observer. In Study 1 (n = 235), self-oriented dispositions increased and other-oriented dispositions decreased the probability of rating prescriptive violations as permissible. Study 2 (n = 468) replicated the effect of other-oriented justice sensitivity. Overall, these results bridge the gap between motivational systems and self-other processing. They suggest that justice sensitivity is better conceptualised as distinct motivations which can exert opposing influences on moral decision-making. Moreover, personal involvement may not be as important as individual justice motivations for explaining everyday moral decision-making.