Just wrong? Or just WEIRD? Investigating the prevalence of moral dumbfounding in non-Western samples


Moral dumbfounding occurs when people maintain a moral judgment even though they cannot provide a reason for this judgment. Dumbfounded responding may include admitting to not having reasons, or the use of unsupported declarations (“It’s just wrong”) as justification for a judgment. Published evidence for dumbfounding has drawn exclusively on samples of WEIRD backgrounds (Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic), and it remains unclear to what extent the phenomenon is generalizable to other populations. Furthermore, the theoretical implications of moral dumbfounding have been disputed in recent years. In three studies we apply a standardized moral dumbfounding task, and show evidence for moral dumbfounding in a Chinese sample (Study 1, N = 165), an Indian sample (Study 2, N = 181), and a mixed sample primarily (but not exclusively) from North Africa and the Middle East (MENA region, Study 3, N = 264). These findings are consistent with a categorization theories of moral judgment.

Memory & Cognition