The Influence of Temporal and Spatial Distance on Moral Judgment and Decision Making

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Psychology
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Publication categoryResearch
EventThe 8th Annual Society for Personality and Social Psychology Conference - Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Duration: 2007 Jan 252007 Jan 27


ConferenceThe 8th Annual Society for Personality and Social Psychology Conference
CountryUnited States
CityMemphis, Tennessee

Bibliographic note

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to investigate whether changes in the temporal and spatial context of a moral dilemma affect how it is perceived and subsequently resolved. According to Construal Level Theory (Trope & Liberman, 2003), psychologically distant information is perceived as more abstract than psychologically proximal information. Thus, the relative weight of abstract justice considerations should increase and the relative weight of concrete care considerations should decrease with temporal and spatial distance. Undergraduates were presented with a number of vignettes in which temporal (experiment 1) and spatial distance (experiment 2) was manipulated in a between-subjects design. Temporal distance was found to increase the relative weight of justice and decrease the relative weight of care. In addition, gender moderated this effect, with females’ morality being more susceptible to temporal distance than males’ morality. Females were more justice-oriented and judged moral transgressions as being more severe in the distant future than in the near future, whereas males showed no such change. Moreover, gender differences appeared only in the distant future, where males were more concerned with care and females more with justice. Spatial distance, however, had no effect on moral judgment or reasoning. These results show that our moral priorities are affected by temporal distance and that temporal distance can help us understand the contextual nature of moral judgment and reasoning. The results also raise questions whether temporal distance may induce more abstraction than spatial distance, and whether temporal distance exerts different effects on males’ and females’ morality.