Judgments about Justice as a Human Universal: Agreements on a Core of Wrongdoing

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Book Chapter

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This chapter presents empirical evidence that different people can have an astounding level of agreement on a wide range of liability and punishment issues. The chapter is organized as follows. Section A reviews studies that show a nearly universal intuition that serious wrongdoing should be punished. Section B investigates views on the relative seriousness of different wrongdoings and finds a similar degree of consensus. This is not to say that individuals agree on the specific sentence for each case, but rather, that people agree upon the relative blameworthiness among a set of cases. However, given a punishment continuum with a limited number of meaningfully different units and a high number of distinguishable cases, each case must end up associated with a specific sentence. Finally, Section C describes two recent studies designed to test the outer limits of agreement. The level of agreements in rank ordering scenarios is so high that the studies failed to find the limits of shared intuitions of justice on core wrongdoing, although clearly there are limits.


intuition, justice, judgments, punishment, wrongdoings

Publication Title

Intuitions of Justice and the Utility of Desert