The emotional dog and its rational tail: a social intuitionist approach to moral judgment

Psychol Rev. 2001 Oct;108(4):814-34. doi: 10.1037/0033-295x.108.4.814.


Research on moral judgment has been dominated by rationalist models, in which moral judgment is thought to be caused by moral reasoning. The author gives 4 reasons for considering the hypothesis that moral reasoning does not cause moral judgment; rather, moral reasoning is usually a post hoc construction, generated after a judgment has been reached. The social intuitionist model is presented as an alternative to rationalist models. The model is a social model in that it deemphasizes the private reasoning done by individuals and emphasizes instead the importance of social and cultural influences. The model is an intuitionist model in that it states that moral judgment is generally the result of quick, automatic evaluations (intuitions). The model is more consistent that rationalist models with recent findings in social, cultural, evolutionary, and biological psychology, as well as in anthropology and primatology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Emotions*
  • Humans
  • Intuition*
  • Morals*
  • Problem Solving
  • Social Perception*
  • Social Values