In recent decades, Americans have adopted a parenting norm in which children of all ages must be under constant adult supervision. Parents who violate this norm by allowing their children to be alone even for a few minutes now face harsh judgment and sometimes legal action. This is true despite the fact that children are much more likely to be hurt, for example, in car accidents. Why then, do bystanders call 911 when they see children playing alone, but not when they see children riding in cars? Thomas will present results from five studies indicating that moral judgments play a role: the less morally acceptable a parent’s reason for leaving a child alone, the more danger people judge the child to be in. This suggests that people systematically overestimate the danger to unsupervised children, in part to justify the intuition that parents who leave their children alone have done something morally wrong. Implications for broader theories of moral cognition as well as policy implications will be discussed.
Reception immediately following: 6:00-8:00 p.m.