In psychology, "wrongness" refers to the perception or feeling of something being morally, ethically, or logically incorrect. It encompasses the evaluation of actions, thoughts, or situations as contrary to an individual's or society's standards of right and wrong. The concept of wrongness is integral to moral and ethical decision-making, shaping human behavior, and influencing emotional responses. In this article, we will explore the concept of wrongness in psychology, provide examples, discuss potential risks and application areas, offer recommendations for addressing wrongness, and briefly touch upon historical and legal perspectives. Finally, we will list some similar psychological concepts related to morality, ethics, and judgment.

Examples of Wrongness in Psychology

  1. Moral Dilemmas: Decisions involving ethical choices, such as whether to lie to protect someone's feelings, often involve a sense of wrongness or guilt.

  2. Cognitive Dissonance: When individuals hold contradictory beliefs or engage in actions conflicting with their values, they may experience a profound sense of wrongness.

  3. Social Norms: Violating social norms or cultural expectations can trigger feelings of wrongness or discomfort.

Risks and Application Areas

  • Moral Conflict: Experiencing wrongness in moral judgments can lead to internal conflict and distress.

  • Ethical Decision-Making: Wrongness is central to ethical decision-making in professions like medicine, law, and business.

  • Social Interactions: Incorrect social behaviors can result in social rejection or exclusion, impacting mental health.

Recommendations for Addressing Wrongness

  1. Reflect on Values: Clarify your personal values and beliefs to better understand why you perceive certain actions as wrong.

  2. Seek Guidance: Consult with mentors, counselors, or ethical experts when faced with complex moral dilemmas to gain perspective.

  3. Practice Empathy: Try to understand the perspectives of others to navigate situations where different values may clash.

  4. Cultivate Moral Courage: Develop the courage to stand by your ethical principles, even when it may be challenging.

Historical and Legal Perspectives

Throughout history, societies and cultures have developed their own moral codes and ethics, which have influenced laws and legal systems. The concept of wrongness has played a crucial role in shaping legal norms and legal standards. For example, laws against theft, violence, and fraud are rooted in societal perceptions of wrongness.

From a legal perspective, violations of laws and regulations are often considered morally or ethically wrong. Legal systems exist to address actions that society deems as wrong, aiming to provide justice and protection for individuals and the community.

Similar Psychological Concepts

  1. Morality: Morality encompasses principles and values that dictate what is right or wrong, guiding ethical decision-making.

  2. Ethics: Ethics refers to the study of moral principles and the application of moral values in various contexts, including professional ethics.

  3. Conscience: Conscience is an individual's internal moral compass, influencing judgments about right and wrong.

  4. Guilt: Guilt is the emotional response to the perception of having done something wrong, often motivating behavior change or restitution.


Wrongness in psychology relates to the perception of actions, thoughts, or situations as morally, ethically, or logically incorrect. It plays a significant role in guiding moral and ethical decision-making, influencing behavior, and shaping emotional responses. Wrongness can manifest in various ways, from moral conflicts to cognitive dissonance. It carries risks such as internal conflict and social consequences but also serves as a compass for ethical decision-making. Recommendations for addressing wrongness include reflecting on personal values and seeking guidance. Historically, wrongness has influenced legal systems, and legal perspectives often align with societal perceptions of right and wrong. Similar concepts include morality, ethics, conscience, and guilt. Understanding and navigating wrongness are essential for individuals and society to make ethical and moral choices that align with their values and principles.

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