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 March 5, 2015 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 March 5, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Former NFL Players Donate Brains to Science

Former NFL Players Donate Brains to Science

Reuters - US Online Video (Mar. 3, 2015) Super Bowl champions Sidney Rice and Steve Weatherford donate their brains, post-mortem, to scientific research into repetitive brain trauma. Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alzheimer's Protein Plaque Found In 20-Year-Olds

Alzheimer's Protein Plaque Found In 20-Year-Olds

Newsy (Mar. 3, 2015) Researchers found an abnormal protein associated with Alzheimer&apos;s disease in the brains of 20-year-olds. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Nasal Treatment Could Help Ease Migraine Pain

This Nasal Treatment Could Help Ease Migraine Pain

Newsy (Mar. 2, 2015) Researchers gave lidocaine to 112 patients, and about 88 percent of the subjects said they needed less migraine-relief medicine the next day. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Facebook Use Can Lead To Depression

How Facebook Use Can Lead To Depression

Newsy (Mar. 1, 2015) Margaret Duffy of the University of Missouri talks about her study on the social network and the envy and depression that Facebook use can cause. 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