Moral foundations, values, and judgments in extraordinary altruists (Paige Amormino et al.)


Donating a kidney to a stranger is a rare act of extraordinary altruism that appears to reflect a moral commitment to helping others. Yet little is known about patterns of moral cognition associated with extraordinary altruism. In this preregistered study, we compared the moral foundations, values, and patterns of utilitarian moral judgments in altruistic kidney donors (n = 61) and demographically matched controls (n = 58). Altruists expressed more concern only about the moral foundation of harm, but no other moral foundations. Consistent with this, altruists endorsed utilitarian concerns related to impartial beneficence, but not instrumental harm. Contrary to our predictions, we did not find group differences between altruists and controls in basic values. Extraordinary altruism generally reflected opposite patterns of moral cognition as those seen in individuals with psychopathy, a personality construct characterized by callousness and insensitivity to harm and suffering. Results link real-world, costly, impartial altruism primarily to moral cognitions related to alleviating harm and suffering in others rather than to basic values, fairness concerns, or strict utilitarian decision-making.


Amormino, P., Ploe, M. L., & Marsh, A. A. (2022). Moral foundations, values, and judgments in extraordinary altruists. Scientific Reports12(1), 22111.