Aug 12, 2019 by Foresight

Could a Moral Judgement Test Prevent Acts of Violence?

In a study published earlier this year, a group of researchers aimed to understand the mindset of those who commit violent crimes. By conducting psychological assessments of those convicted of terrorism offences, researchers from Argentina, the USA, Colombia and Chile developed a scoring system based on the participants’ moral judgement. The goal of the study was to gain insight on what draws individuals to commit terrorist acts or join terrorist organisations. They hope that by gaining an understanding of what motivates these offenders, future acts of violence could be prevented.

Research into Offenders’ Moral Judgement

The researchers worked with 66 former members of a right-wing paramilitary group in Columbia, and 66 individuals with no history of violence. All of the offenders are currently in prison charged with murder, and many had been involved in large scale acts of violence. During the study, the participants were asked to complete several psychological tests, including an assessment of their moral judgement.
The researchers presented the participants with a series of scenarios in which a character was either accidentally or deliberately causing harm to others, and asked them to assign the scenario a score from 1 to 7, 1 being a totally forbidden act, and 7 being totally acceptable. After comparing the results of the offenders to the results of the healthy individuals, the study concluded that those convicted of violent crime had an abnormal pattern of moral judgement.

Violent Individuals Focus on the Aim

The researchers found a pattern that the group of offenders focused on the outcomes of an action rather than its underlying intention, by frequently endorsing actions which the non-violent group would deem unacceptable. The researchers suggested that, based on their findings, those with a history of violence tend to approve of any actions which contribute to achieving an aim, regardless of how violent they are.
The psychologists who led the study believe that these conclusions could contribute towards building a psychological profile of a violent offender which could be used in forensics and law enforcement. The moral score produced by this test could help to assess the threat an individual poses to themselves or the public, and could provide valuable insights into an individual’s behaviour in many other types of case.

Predicting Future Behaviour

Although this approach can help to distinguish violent individuals from others, there are many other factors which can lead a person to commit an act of violence. More research into this assessment is needed to identify whether a test like this could potentially be used to predict an individual’s future behaviour. Knowing this information, it might be possible to intervene sooner and prevent an individual from committing further violent crimes.

Insight from a psychologist can help courts and legal teams understand why an individual was led to committing a crime. In the cases of violent crime, a test like the moral score test used in this study could be helpful in assessing whether an individual is likely to reoffend. At Foresight, we supply psychology expert witnesses to a range of cases to provide an impartial judgement on an individual’s psychological state. Contact us today if you require a psychology expert witness for your case.



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