Do people generally view others as good or evil? Although people generally cooperate with others and view others’ “true selves” as intrinsically good, we suggest that they are likely to assume that the actions of others are evil-at least when they are ambiguous. Nine experiments provide support for promiscuous condemnation: the general tendency to assume that ambiguous actions are immoral. Both cognitive and functional arguments support the idea of promiscuous condemnation. Cognitively, dyadic completion suggests that when the mind perceives some elements of immorality (or harm), it cannot help but perceive other elements of immorality. Functionally, assuming that ambiguous actions are immoral helps people quickly identify potential harm and provide aid to others. In the first seven experiments, participants often judged neutral nonsense actions (e.g., “John pelled”) as immoral, especially when the context surrounding these nonsense actions included elements of immorality (e.g., intentionality and suffering). In the last two experiments, participants showed greater promiscuous condemnation under time pressure, suggesting an automatic tendency to assume immorality that people must effortfully control.
I dub this the Edgelord Effect.