Year of Publication

2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Will M. Gervais

Abstract

Past work in moral psychology has demonstrated that individuals’ judgments of other humans in hypothetical moral scenarios can be influenced by variables such as intentionality, causality and controllability. However, while empirical studies suggest that individuals similarly hold nonhuman agents such as robots morally accountable for their actions to the extent that they are perceived to possess humanlike attributes important for moral judgments, research is scant when God is introduced as a nonhuman agent. On one hand it is proposed that because people anthropomorphize God, our moral intuitions of humans and God tend to show similar effects. In this case, both humans and God should be morally blamed when they are perceived to have engaged in a moral transgression. On the other hand, opinion polls suggest that the public at large generally agrees that belief in God(s) is necessary for one to be moral. By extension, our moral intuitions of God and humans should diverge significantly. Both perspectives offer different predictions about how people morally judge God and humans. This study attempts to test both perspectives by examining whether moral judgments of God show similar patterns to the moral judgments of a human (anthropomorphic perspective) or if judgments are biased toward God even when an immoral deed has occurred (Divine Command perspective). A 2 (Target: human vs God) x 2 (Morality of scenario: moral vs immoral) x 3 (Scenarios: sexual assault vs robbery vs murder) mixed model design was conducted to examine both hypotheses. Exploratory variables (i.e., Morality Founded on Divine Authority (MFDA) scale, religiosity and gender) were also included to test for potential moderation effects. Initial results suggest that people’s moral intuitions of humans and God do diverge, and this effect was moderated only by the MFDA scale. Limitations, implications and possible alternative explanations are discussed.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/ETD.2017.424

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