Moral judgment, affect, and culture, or, is it wrong to eat your dog?

Jonathan David Haidt, University of Pennsylvania


Are disgusting or disrespectful actions considered to be moral violations, even when they are harmless? Stories about victimless yet offensive actions (such as eating one's dead pet dog) were presented to Brazilian and U.S. adults and children, of high and low socio-economic status. Results show that college students at elite universities judged these stories to be matters of social convention, or of personal preference. Most other subjects, especially in Brazil, judged the offensive actions to be universally wrong moral violations. Moral judgments were better predicted by affective reactions than by appraisals of harmfulness. These results support Shweder (1990), and Miller, Bersoff and Harwood (1990), and suggest that cultural norms and culturally shaped emotions have a substantial impact on the domain of morality and the process of moral judgment. Efforts to build cross-culturally valid models of moral judgment are discussed.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Haidt, Jonathan David, "Moral judgment, affect, and culture, or, is it wrong to eat your dog?" (1992). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9227672.