Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Luck affects how we judge reckless actions

Date:
April 23, 2014
Source:
British Psychological Society (BPS)
Summary:
A person, who acts immorally or recklessly but is “lucky” by escaping dire consequences, is judged less harshly than an “unlucky” person, even when both have committed the same act. "Moral luck" is a term used in philosophy that describes situations in which a person is subjected to moral judgments by others despite the fact that the assessment is based on factors beyond his or her control, i.e. "luck."

A person, who acts immorally or recklessly but is "lucky" by escaping dire consequences, is judged less harshly than an "unlucky" person, even when both have committed the same act.

Related Articles


The study, "Beliefs in Moral Luck: When and Why Blame Hinges on Luck," is co-authored by Lench, along with Rachel Smallman and Kathleen Darbor, also of Texas A&M, and Darren Domsky of Texas A&M at Galveston, and will be published today, 24 April 2014, in the British Journal of Psychology.

"Moral luck" is a term used in philosophy that describes situations in which a person is subjected to moral judgments by others despite the fact that the assessment is based on factors beyond his or her control, i.e. "luck."

Lench, who specializes in emotion and cognition − how emotions influence our thinking -- explains that test subjects were given a hypothetical situation in which two men stand on a highway overpass and each blindly tosses a brick down onto the traffic below. One brick is red and the other is green. One brick hits the pavement harming no one, but the other smashes through a car roof, killing someone. The two committed the same immoral act, yet one was lucky that no one was killed.

The two men are arrested and test subjects were asked if the two men are equally blameworthy, deserving of the same punishment. In other words, do we need to know the color of the brick to be able to punish them or do they deserve the same punishment regardless of one being luckier than the other?

"We found that when people were faced with this scenario, more of them placed the blame on the man that killed someone," Lench explains. "Both threw a brick, so logically they should both be held accountable, but the lucky guy gets away with it."

She adds the test subjects were also asked whether they believed, in general, that people should be punished based on their actions -- what they intended to do -- or whether or not their actions happened to hurt someone. "In general, people reported that the luck of the outcome shouldn't matter and that offenders should be judged based on intent," she says. "However, when faced with the consequences, emotions come into play and they judge based on the outcome rather than the intent."

Lench likens the brick scenario to drunk driving. "When two people drive drunk, but one hits and kills a child, he is punished more severely than the man who didn't hurt anyone, although they committed the same offense of drunk driving − it's just that one got lucky.

"Generally we have a hard time incorporating our abstract beliefs about the way we think the world should work into how it actually works," she notes. "In the abstract, we don't value luck, but in our actual judgments of others, we do."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by British Psychological Society (BPS). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Heather C. Lench, Darren Domsky, Rachel Smallman, Kathleen E. Darbor. Beliefs in moral luck: When and why blame hinges on luck. British Journal of Psychology, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/bjop.12072

Cite This Page:

British Psychological Society (BPS). "Luck affects how we judge reckless actions." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140423221228.htm>.
British Psychological Society (BPS). (2014, April 23). Luck affects how we judge reckless actions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140423221228.htm
British Psychological Society (BPS). "Luck affects how we judge reckless actions." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140423221228.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins