Are children moral objectivists? Children's judgments about moral and response-dependent properties

Shaun Nichols, Trisha Folds-Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Researchers working on children's moral understanding maintain that the child's capacity to distinguish morality from convention shows that children regard moral violations as objectively wrong (e.g. Nucci, L. (2001). Education in the moral domain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). However, one traditional way to cast the issue of objectivism is to focus not on conventionality, but on whether moral properties depend on our responses, as with properties like icky and fun. This paper argues that the moral/ conventional task is inadequate for assessing whether children regard moral properties as response-dependent. Unfortunately, children's understanding of response-dependent properties has been neglected in recent research. Two experiments are reported showing that children are more likely to treat properties like fun and icky as response-dependent than moral properties like good and bad. Hence, this helps support the claim that children are moral objectivists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)B23-B32
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2003


  • Moral judgment
  • Moral objectivism
  • Moral/conventional distinction
  • Response-dependent properties

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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