Spatial Distance, Availability of Means, and Moral Obligation Judgments

Abstract

In the present research we analyze the interrelations of spatial distance and efficaciousness in helping needy others, and we investigate how these factors affect our judgments of moral helping obligations. The main question is under which conditions the location of an agent’s means of helping relative to a victim is regarded as morally relevant. We develop a new experimental design that allows us to test our hypotheses concurrently in both separate and joint evaluation modes using a constant procedure across groups. We find that spatial proximity of an agent’s means to a victim increases people’s sense of obligation only to the extent to which it is indicative of increased efficaciousness or personal involvement.


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