Deontological coherence: A framework for commonsense moral reasoning

Keith J. Holyoak, Derek Powell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


We review a broad range of work, primarily in cognitive and social psychology, that provides insight into the processes of moral judgment. In particular, we consider research on pragmatic reasoning about regulations and on coherence in decision making, both areas in which psychological theories have been guided by work in legal philosophy. Armed with these essential prerequisites, we sketch a psychological framework for how ordinary people make judgments about moral issues. Based on a literature review, we show how the framework of deontological coherence unifies findings in moral psychology that have often been explained in terms of a grab-bag of heuristics and biases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1179-1203
Number of pages25
JournalPsychological bulletin
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Coherence-based reasoning
  • Deontology
  • Dual-process theories
  • Moral judgment
  • Pragmatic reasoning schemas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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