Morality and Culture: Differences in American and Chinese Moral Reasoning

Lo, Alison [Browse]
Senior thesis
68 pages


Prentice, Deborah [Browse]
Sinclair, Stacey [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Psychology [Browse]
Class year
Restrictions note
Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Summary note
This research attempts to identify a moral framework specific to Chinese culture, adding to the theory that morality is culturally bound. To do so, a study was conducted examining Chinese and white American adults’ (N = 677) judgment about moral dilemmas in which interpersonal and justice responsibilities were in conflict. The majority of Chinese prioritized the interpersonal alternative while most Americans prioritized the justice alternative. When justifying their choices, Chinese tended to use role-related obligations, while Americans favored reasons of inherent rights and fairness. Furthermore, Chinese were more likely than Americans to categorize their choices as social conventions (legitimately regulated but not governed by moral obligations), but Americans were more likely to see them as moral issues (governed by moral obligations and legitimately regulated). Chinese were also more likely than Americans to change the weight they accorded to interpersonal obligations depending on their relationship to the person in question. Results suggest that Chinese and Americans have different moral values and reasoning. Americans have an individually centered morality that emphasizes inherent rights and principles of justice. In contrast, Chinese hold a moral code that focuses on relationships and collective responsibilities.

Supplementary Information