Scenario A: You are a man. Your female partner is unfaithful. You find out. You beat her up.
Scenario B: You are a man. Your female partner is unfaithful. You find out. You beat up her cat.
In a study, the 87 participants judged the behaviour of the man in scenario B less moral than the man in scenario A. So beating up the woman’s cat under these circumstances is more immoral than beating up the woman.
In the same study, the participants judged that the behaviour of the man in scenario B was less bad than in scenario A. So beating a woman under these circumstances is worse than beating the woman’s cat.
The findings appear to conflict. Perhaps they do conflict slightly. However pure morality is not quite the same thing as deciding whether actions are good or bad. There is an overlap.
Participants were found to be more angry about the man’s actions when he beat up his partner and more disgusted when he beat up the woman’s cat. So the difference in the participants’ reactions to the stories is the difference between being angry and disgusted.
What interests me is the judgement that beating up a cat is more immoral than beating up a person. I have not read the study’s conclusions. However, this may be because the cat is totally innocent and more vulnerable. To harm a cat is therefore more immoral.
The participants, in becoming more angry about beating up the woman than the cat, are it seems not passing a moral judgement because the woman’s actions are themselves immoral. But they are angry that he beat her up because the behaviour is clearly wrong and indeed criminal (domestic violence). That’s my take on this.
It is nice to see that people recognise the immorality of cat abuse.
Note: I have referred to a cat. The study referred to a pet. Same difference.
Source: independent.co.uk which referred to a research paper in the journal Psychological Science. The scientists are Prof. Hanah Chapman in New York and Prof. Roger Giner-Sorolla in the UK.