Behavioral norms for condensed moral vignettes

Kristine M. Knutson, Frank Krueger, Michael Koenigs, Angelina Hawley, Jessica R. Escobedo, Viren Vasudeva, Ralph Adolphs, Jordan Grafman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Moral judgment is an evaluation of the actions and character of a person made with respect to societal norms. Although many types of vignettes have been used in previous studies on moral beliefs and judgment, what is missing is a set of standardized common vignettes based in real life. The goal of this study was to provide researchers with stimuli that have values on several dimensions pertaining to moral judgment and whose underlying components are known. These values will allow researchers to select stimuli based on standardized ratings rather than on the results of pilot studies, while avoiding the limitations of the classic, abstract moral scenarios. Our study was composed of three phases, (i) collecting and shortening the vignettes, (ii) obtaining ratings of the vignettes on several dimensions including emotional intensity, degree of social norm violation, and level of harm or benefit caused and (iii) determining the underlying components of the vignettes by performing a factor analysis. We found three components that accounted for most of the variance: norm violation, social affect and intention. The resulting vignettes can be used in future parametric studies on moral judgment in behavioral, neuropsychological and functional imaging experiments. Published by Oxford University Press 2010.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbernsq005
Pages (from-to)378-384
Number of pages7
JournalSocial cognitive and affective neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2010


  • Moral cognition
  • Moral judgment
  • Norms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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