Psychology 453/PPE 475: Seminar in moral judgment, law, and public policy

Tue/Thu 1:30-3, C41 Solomon Psychology Lab Building

Jonathan Baron

Office: C7 Solomon

This is a seminar course in which students will read articles and take turns presenting them and adding personal ideas to the papers while discussing them with the class. It will count as a capstone for PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) students, and it is open to graduate students as well as undergrads.

The main theme will be utilitarianism as a normative theory of law, and the conflict between this theory and intuitive moral judgments. The reading will include a little law and economics, behavioral law and economics, philosophical defenses of utilitarianism, and articles about the psychology of moral judgment, including the role of emotion, intuition, and reflection.

Prerequistes: There are no prerequisites, but students should be able to understand the style of psychology journal articles, without regarding expressions such as "t(59)=2.96, p=.02" as spots on the page.

Each reading will be assigned to a student who will be responsible for presenting no more than a 10-minute summary of the paper and at least 5 minutes of personal thoughts.

Everyone should read everything before class. Please submit a comment (e.g., two questions for discussion, but it can be something else too, based on the reading) at least an hour before the class, once a week. Use the class mailing list for this: to post, just send email to (If you are presenting, you do not need to submit a comment.)

All students will write a paper at the end.

The following list will be changed frequently. Make sure to reload this page if you don't have the latest version.



Jan 10
Richard Hare, "Moral thinking: Its levels method and point": Ch 1, Ch 2, Ch 3

Jan 15
Hare: Ch 5, Ch 6, Ch 7, Ch 8
Rohan Shah (5-6), me (7-8)

Jan 17
Hare: Ch 9, Ch 10, Ch 11,
Shree Raghavan (9-10),
Lucy Abbot (11)

Jan 22

Thinking, Fast and Slow, by D. Kahneman, Chapters 1-3
Graham Overton

Evans, J., St.B. T. (2003). In two minds: dual-process accounts of reasoning. Trends in Cognitive Science, 7, 454-459
Chris Cruz

Jan 24

Frederick, S. (2005). Journal of Economic Perspectives, 19, 25–42.
Jay Dave

Greene, J. D., Sommerville, R. B., Nystrom, L. E., Darley, J. M., & Cohen, J. D. (2001). An fMRI investigation of emotional engagement in moral Judgment. Science, 293, 2105–2108.
Rohan Shah

Optional: (Kahane, G. & Shackel, N. (2010) Methodological Problems in the Neuroscience of Moral Judgment. Mind and Language, 25(5) 561-582.)

Jan 29

McGuire, J., Langdon, R., Coltheart, M., & Mackenzie, C. (2009). A reanalysis of the personal/impersonal distinction in moral psychology research. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 577-580.
Stephanie Johnson

Greene, J.D. (2009) Dual-process morality and the personal/impersonal distinction: A reply to McGuire, Langdon, Coltheart, and Mackenzie. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45 581–584.
Stephanie Johnson

Paxton, J. M., Ungar, L., Greene, J. D., (2011) Reflection and reasoning in moral judgment. Cognitive Science.
McKinley Stephens

Greene, J. D., Cushman, F. A., Stewart. L. E., Lowenberg, K., Nystrom, L. E., & Cohen, J. D. (2009). Pushing moral buttons: The interaction between personal force and intention in moral judgment. Cognition, 111, 364–371.
Ryan Daniels

Nichols, S., & Mallon, R. (2006). Moral dilemmas and moral rules. Cognition, 100, 530-542.
Luisa Sucre


Jan 31

Sunstein, C. R. (2005). Moral heuristics (with commentary). Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 28, 531–573. here
Shree Raghavan

Feb 5

Baron, J. & Ritov, I. (1993). Intuitions about penalties and compensation in the context of tort law. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 7, 17-33.

Greene, J. D. (2007). The secret joke of Kant’s soul. in W. Sinnott-Armstrong, Ed., Moral psychology, Vol. 3: The neuroscience of morality: Emotion, disease, and development, pp. 36–79. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
Camila Penazzo

Feb 7

Bartels, D. M. (2008). Principled moral sentiment and the flexibility of moral judgment and decision making. Cognition, 108, 381-417.
Ryan Daniels

Bartels, D. M. & Pizarro, D. A. (2011). The mismeasure of morals: Antisocial personality traits predict utilitarian responses to moral dilemmas. Cognition, 108, 381-417.
Lucy Abbot

Koenigs, M., Young, L., Adolphs, R., Tranel, D., Cushman, F., Hauser, M., et al (2007). Damage to the prefrontal cortex increases utilitarian moral judgments. Nature, 446, 908–911.
Chris Cruz

Feb 12


Slovic, P. (2007). "If I look at the mass I will never act": Psychic numbing and genocide. Judgment and Decision Making, 2, 79-95. (html)
Graham Overton

Baron, J. (1997). Confusion of relative and absolute risk in valuation. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 14, 301-309.
Luisa Sucre

Feb 14


Tetlock, P. (2003). Thinking the unthinkable: Sacred values and taboo cognitions. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 7, 320–324.
Stephanie Johnson

Hammad Sheikh, Jeremy Ginges, Alin Coman and Scott Atran Religion, group threat and sacred values
Camila Penazzo

Roth, A. E. (?) In 100 years.
Roth, A. E. (2007). Repugnance as a Constraint on Markets, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 21:3, Summer, 2007, pp. 37-58.
McKinley Stephens

Feb 19

Baron, J., & Ritov. I. (2009). Protected values and omission bias as deontological judgments. In D. M. Bartels, C. W. Bauman, L. J. Skitka, & D. L. Medin (Eds.), Moral Judgment and decision making, Vol. 50 in B. H. Ross (series editor), The Psychology of Learning and Motivation, pp. 133–167. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Lucy Abbot

Feb 21

Background reading:Tax forms
Form 1040
Form 1040 instructions
Ryan Daniels (and JB)

Diamond, P., & Saez, E. (2011). The case for a progressive tax: From basic research to policy recommendations. Journal of Economic Perspectives.
Jay Dave

Feb 26

McCaffery, E. M., & Hines, J. R. Jr. (). The last best hope for progressivity in tax.
Rohan Shah

McCaffery, E. J., & Baron J. (2005). The political psychology of redistribution. UCLA Law Review, 52, 1745–1792.
Chris Cruz

Feb 28

McCaffery & Baron, Isolation effects and the neglect of indirect effects of fiscal policies
Graham Overton

Hardisty, D. J., Johnson, E. J., & Weber, E. U. (2010). A dirty word or a dirty world? Attribute framing, political affiliation, and query theory. Psychological Science, 21(1), 86-92. - When carbon taxes are reframed as offsets, Republicans are more likely to support them.
Shree Raghavan

Sussman, Abby and Olivola, Christopher Y (2011). Axe the Tax: Taxes are Disliked More than Equivalent Costs. Journal of Marketing Research
Luisa Sucre



Mar 12

Shavell: Economic Analysis of Public Law Enforcement and Criminal Law, chs. 20, 21 (sections 1-3), and chs. 23, 24.
Camila Penazzo (23,24) and JB (20,21)

Mar 14

Paul H. Robinson and John Darley (2004). Does criminal law deter?
McKinley Stephens

Kevin M. Carlsmith and John M. Darley (2008). Psychological aspects of retributive justice Advances in Experimental Social Psychology
Lucy Abbot

Robinson et al. The disutility of injustice
Rohan Shah

Raymond Fisman and Edward Miguel. (2007). Corruption, norms, and legal enforcement: Evidence from diplomatic parking tickets. Journal of Political Economy, 115, 1020-1048.
Stephanie Johnson

Mar 19

Croson, R., & Konow, J. (2009). Social preferences and moral biases. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 69, 201-212.
Shree Raghavan

Diamond, J. Vengeance is ours. New Yorker.
Ryan Daniels

Baron, J., & Ritov, I. (2009). The role of probability of detection in judgments of punishment. Journal of Legal Analysis, 2, 553-590.

Mar 21

Greene, J. D. , Cohen J. D. (2004) For the law, neuroscience changes nothing and everything. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B, (Special Issue on Law and the Brain), 359, 1775-17785.
Graham Overton

Monterosso, J., Royzman, E. B., \& Sabini, J. (2005). Explaining away responsibility: Effects of scientific explanation on perceived culpability. Ethics and Behavior, 15, 139-158.
Rohan Shah

Tetlock, P. E. et al. (2007). People as intuitive prosecutors: The impact of social-control goals on attributions of responsibility. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43, 195-209.
Chris Cruz

Mar 26


Cushman, F. A., Dreber, A., Wang, Y., & Costa, J. (2009). Accidental outcomes guide punishment in a 'trembling hand' game. PLoS One 4(8): e6699.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006699.

Cushman, F. A. (2008). Crime and Punishment: Differential reliance on causal and intentional information for different classes of moral judgment. Cognition 108(2): 353-380.
Camila Penazzo


Mar 28

Haidt, J., Graham, J., & Joseph, C. (2009). Above and below left-right: Ideological narratives and moral foundations. Psychological Inquiry, 20, p. 110-119.
Shree Raghavan

Pauer-Studer, H., \& Velleman, J. D. (2011). Distortions of normativity. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 14, 329-356.
McKinley Stephens

Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule (2009). Conspiracy theories: Causes and cures, Journal of Political Philosopy.
Stephanie Johnson

Apr 2

Dan M. Kahan et al. (2012). The Polarizing Impact of Science Literacy and Numeracy on Perceived Climate Change Risks
Chris Cruz


Sunstein and Thaler, Libertarian paternalism
Ryan Daniels

Thaler, Sunstein, Balz, Choice architecture
Rohan Shah

Apr 4

Korobkin Libertarian welfarism:
Graham Overton

Apr 9: Papers

Sunstein, Impersonal defaulte (recommended)
Camerer et al., Asymmetric paternalism
Lucy Abbot

Gelman and Edlin. Vote for charity's sake
Ryan Daniels

Baron. The culture of honor in citizens' concept of their duty as voters.
Luisa Sucre

Apr 11: Papers:
Shree Raghavan,
Lucy Abbot: Kleiman paper, Project HOPE

Apr 16: Papers:
Stephanie Johnson
Chris Cruz
Graham Overton

Apr 18: Papers
Luisa Sucre: Venezuela election
Ryan Daniels

Apr 23: Papers
Rohan Shah
Camilla Penazzo

FINAL PAPER The idea of the paper is derived from the PPE requirements, which specify that a paper is required for all capstone seminars. For PPE, the ideal paper demonstrates how to bring two or more perspectives to bear on some issue. The "perspectives" include philosophy, politics, economics, law, and ... psychology. If you want a model of the sort of paper that might be typical, look at any law review. (But the ratio of footnotes to text does not need to be so high as is typical. You don't need footnotes at all.) Examples of possible issues (off the top of my head) are things like whether Casey Martin should be allowed to use a golf cart, whether incest/cloning/euthanasia/... should be illegal (or, more to the point, what exactly should the law do), how pop (or any) musicians should make a living (which has everything to do right now with intellectual property law and its enforcement), or anything else that could be discussed in the course, whether it was discussed or not.

Or it could be more like a psychology research proposal (but, again, brining in other perspectives when they apply), reviewing relevant literature on some topic and then proposing the next step. (This turns out to be surprisingly difficult for non-psych-majors. Apparently, psych majors learn something, which is good news.)

It should be submitted by email. Text is best. I convert doc and docx files to text unless you tell me not to (and that would be because they have graphics, in which case pdf is probably better). Aim for about 3000 words or less, but longer is OK if you need it.

I strongly encourage short proposals and drafts.