People systematically update moral judgments of blame.

Six experiments examine people’s updating of blame judgments and test predictions developed from a socially regulated blame perspective. According to this perspective, blame emerged in human history as a socially costly tool for regulating other’s behavior. Because it is costly for both blamers and violators, blame is typically constrained by requirements for “warrant†–evidence that one’s moral judgment is justified. This requirement motivates people to systematically process available causal and mental information surrounding a violation. That is, people are relatively calibrated and evenhanded in utilizing evidence that either amplifies or mitigates blame. Such systematic processing should be particularly visible when people update their moral judgments. Using a novel experimental paradigm, we test 2 sets of predictions derived from the socially regulated blame perspective and compare them with predictions from a motivated-blame perspective. Studies 1—4 demonstrate (across student, Internet, and community samples) that moral perceivers systematically grade updated blame judgments in response to the strength of new causal and mental information, without anchoring on initial evaluations. Further, these studies reveal that perceivers update blame judgments symmetrically in response to exacerbating and mitigating information, inconsistent with motivated-blame predictions. Study 5 shows that graded and symmetric blame updating is robust under cognitive load. Lastly, Study 6 demonstrates that biases can emerge once the social requirement for warrant is relaxed–as in the case of judging outgroup members. We conclude that social constraints on blame judgments render the normal process of blame well calibrated to causal and mental information, and biases may appear when such constraints are absent. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)