Evaluative Deflation, Social Expectations, and the Zone of Moral Indifference

Cogn Sci. 2024 Jan;48(1):e13406. doi: 10.1111/cogs.13406.


Acts that are considered undesirable standardly violate our expectations. In contrast, acts that count as morally desirable can either meet our expectations or exceed them. The zone in which an act can be morally desirable yet not exceed our expectations is what we call the zone of moral indifference, and it has so far been neglected. In this paper, we show that people can use positive terms in a deflated manner to refer to actions in the zone of moral indifference, whereas negative terms cannot be so interpreted.

Keywords: Blame; Cancellability test; Evaluative language; Moral judgments; Norms; Praise; Thin and thick concepts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Morals*
  • Motivation*