Individual differences in reliance on intuition predict harsher moral judgments

Sarah J. Ward, Laura A. King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The notion that intuition guides moral judgment is widely accepted. Yet, there is a dearth of research examining whether individual differences in reliance on intuition influence moral judgment. Five studies provided evidence that faith in intuition (FI) predicts higher condemnation of moral transgressions. Studies 1 and 2 (combined N = 543) demonstrated that FI predicted higher moral condemnation of strange actions characterized by ambiguous harm. This association maintained controlling for a host of relevant ideological and emotional "third" variables. Three experiments demonstrated this relationship to be robust in the face of manipulations. In Study 3 (N = 320), participants rated whether moral scenarios involved harm or victims prior to (vs. after) moral judgments. Although considering harm and victims prior to judgments lowered condemnation toward these actions, the manipulation did not moderate the association between FI and condemnation. FI related to moral condemnation of unconventional actions even after consideration of harm and victims. In Study 4 (N = 236), a manipulation designed to enhance deliberation lowered overall moral condemnation (vs. control group), but did not attenuate the relationship between FI and moral condemnation. In Study 5 (N = 204), participants quickly categorized actions according to whether or not they were immoral, harmful, or involved victims. FI predicted higher condemnation of ambiguously harmful actions even when these judgments were made rapidly. Implications for examining individual differences in intuition in the context of dominant theories in moral psychology (dyadic morality, Moral Foundations Theory) are addressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)825-849
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Individual differences in intuition
  • Intuition
  • Moral judgment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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