, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 457-469

Is a Refrigerator Good or Evil? The Moral Evaluation of Everyday Objects

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Abstract

Certain objects such as family heirlooms are often treated as if they have intrinsic moral qualities, including sacredness and infinite value. Other objects such as instruments of torture are often seen as inherently repellent. Do people also evaluate more mundane objects such as refrigerators as morally good or bad? Here we explore the nature and scope of moral object evaluation through two experiments that asked participants to rate how morally good or bad a large set of familiar objects were. We find that (a) everyday objects tend to be seen as morally positive and (b) unlike mere liking, the moral evaluation of objects is positively linked to the age and political conservatism of the participants. These findings are discussed in relation to research on automatic evaluation, mere exposure effects, and the relationship between affective states and moral judgments.