Cognitive Attraction Theory and Moral Judgment


The present article deals with the processes that underpin moral judgment. In the specialized literature, some concepts are proven to be important mechanisms that build up the moral judgment. For instance, intuition, emotion, reasoning, moral rules, deontology and consequentialism. However, there is a lack of a comprehensive framework, which puts together those key concepts in a clear picture. The present article argues for a more comprehensive view under the light of the Cognitive Attraction Theory (CAT). The derived framework considers emotion as the main facilitator of moral judgment as it acts as the means of conceptual attraction between the different cognitive entities, including moral beliefs and rules. Based on this principle, we show how the moral judgment “evolves” from a moral intuition, sometimes endorsed by a reasoning fallacy, to an elaborated judgment that is a result of a conscious reasoning. With the help of a computer simulation performed with an artificial moral agent that incarnates a computational model of CAT, we show that moral judgment can be deontological or consequentialistic.

Share and Cite:

Chentouf, Z. (2013). Cognitive Attraction Theory and Moral Judgment. Psychology, 4, 38-43. doi: 10.4236/psych.2013.41005.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Arsenio, W. F., & Gold, G. (2006). The effects of social injustice and inequality on children’s moral judgments and behavior: Towards a theoretical model. Cognitive Development, 21, 388-400. doi:1.1016/j.cogdev.2006.06.005
[2] Bartels, D. M. (2008). Principled moral sentiment and the flexibility of moral judgment and decision making. Cognition, 108, 381-417. doi:1.1016/j.cognition.2008.03.001
[3] Bartels, D. M., & Pizarro, D. A. (2011). The mismeasure of morals: Antisocial personality traits predict utilitarian responses to moral dilemmas. Cognition, 121, 154-161. doi:1.1016/j.cognition.2011.05.010
[4] Baron, J., & Spranca, M. (1997). Protected values. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 70, 1-16.
[5] Blair, R. (1995). A cognitive developmental approach to morality: Investigating the psychopath. Cognition, 57, 1-29.
[6] Chentouf, Z. (2000). Homo Informaticus. Paris: L’Harmattan.
[7] Chentouf, Z. (1997). Invariable variable: Introduction to the recurrence theory. Algiers: Office des Publications Universitaires.
[8] Cushman, F., Young, L., & Hauser, M. (2006). The role of conscious reasoning and intuition in moral judgments: Testing three principles of harm. Psychological Science, 17, 1082-1089. doi:1.1111/j.1467-928.2006.01834.x
[9] Darwall, S. (2003a). Consequentialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[10] Darwall, S. (2003b). Deontology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[11] Davis, N. (1993). Contemporary deontology. In P. Singer (Ed.), A companion to ethics (pp. 205-218). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.
[12] Foot, P. (1967). The problem of abortion and the doctrine of double effect. Oxford Review, 5, 5-15.
[13] Gass, R. (2012). Common fallacies in reasoning. URL (last checked 17 October 2012).
[14] Greene, J. D., Morelli, S. A., Lowenberg, K., Nystrom, L. E., & Cohen, J. D. (2008). Cognitive load selectively interferes with utilitarian moral judgment. Cognition, 107, 1144-1154. doi:1.1016/j.cognition.2007.11.004
[15] Gross, J. (1998). The emerging field of emotion regulation. Review of General Psychology, 2, 271-299.
[16] Haidt, J. (2007). The new synthesis in moral psychology. Science, 316, 998-1002. doi:1.1126/science.1137651
[17] Haidt, J. (2001). The emotional dog and its rational tail: A social intuitionist approach to moral judgment. Psychological Review, 108, 814-834. doi:1.1037//0033-295X.108.4.814
[18] Hauser, M. D. (2006). Moral minds: How nature designed our universal sense of right and wrong. New York: Harper Collins.
[19] Nichols, S., & Mallon, R. (2006). Moral dilemmas and moral rules. Cognition, 100, 530-542. doi:1.1016/j.cognition.2005.07.005
[20] Nichols, S. (2002). Norms with feeling: Towards a psychological account of moral judgment. Cognition, 84, 221-236. doi:1.1016/S0010-0277(02)00048-3
[21] Oatley, K. (1999). Emotions. In R. A. Wilson and F. Kiel (Eds.), The MIT encyclopaedia of the cognitive sciences (pp. 273-275). Boston: MIT Press.
[22] Paulsen, O., & Sejnowski, T. J. (2000). Natural patterns of activity and long-term synaptic plasticity. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 10, 172-179. doi:1.1016/S0959-4388(00)00076-3.
[23] Pettit, P. (1993). Consequentialism. In P. Singer (Ed.), A companion to ethics (pp. 273-275). Malden, MA: Blackwell publishing.
[24] Roseman, I. J., & Smith, C. A. (2001). Appraisal theories. In K. R. Sherer, A. Schorr, & T. Johnstone (Eds.), Appraisal processes in emotion: Theory, method, research (pp. 3-19). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[25] Sherer, K. R. (2001). Appraisal considered as a process of multilevel sequential checking. In K. R. Sherer, A. Schorr, & T. Johnstone (Eds.), Appraisal processes in emotion: theory, method, research (pp. 92-120). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[26] Shwarz, N., & Clore, G. L. (1983). Mood, misattribution, and judgment of well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 513-523.
[27] Stich, S., & Ravenscroft, I. (1994). What is folk psychology? Cognition, 50, 447-468. doi:1.1016/S0959-4388(00)00076-3.
[28] Warren, H. C. (1921). A history of the association psychology. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
[29] Wellman, H. M. (1990). The Child’s theory of mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Copyright © 2024 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.