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Publisher: American Psychological Association
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects: BF
Over five experiments we test the fictive pass asymmetry hypothesis. Following observations of ethics and public reactions to media, we propose that fictional contexts, such as reality, imagination, and virtual environments, will mitigate people’s moral condemnation of harm violations, more so than purity violations. That is, imagining a purely harmful act is given a “fictive pass,” in moral judgment, whereas imagining an abnormal act involving the body is evaluated more negatively because it is seen as more diagnostic of bad character. For Experiment 1, an undergraduate sample (N = 250) evaluated nine vignettes depicting an agent committing either violations of harm or purity in real life, watching them in films, or imagining them. For Experiments 2 and 3, online participants (N = 375 and N = 321, respectively) evaluated a single vignette depicting an agent committing a violation of harm or purity that either occurred in real life, was imagined, watched in a film, or performed in a video game. Experiment 4 (N = 348) used an analysis of moderated mediation to demonstrate that the perceived wrongness of fictional purity violations is explained both by the extent to which they are seen as a cue to, and a cause of, a poor moral character. Lastly, Experiment 5 (N = 484) validated our manipulations and included the presumption of desire as an additional mediator of the fictive pass asymmetry effects. We discuss implications for moral theories of act and character, anger and disgust, and for media use and regulation.

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