Immoral Acts: Types And Characteristics, Examples

The  immoral acts  are those who oppose the norms, beliefs and values established in the moral code governing the conduct of a particular social group. They are based on what is called antivalues ; that is, the opposite of accepted moral value.

In general, the display of immoral conduct carries negative consequences for the social environment of the people who carry it out or for the person himself. That is why society, in order to enforce the moral code, blames and marginalizes people who perform immoral acts.

On many occasions it is considered that people who perform immoral acts are mentally ill or people with very specific personality types . However, all people can act immorally at a certain point. 

The theory of moral disengagement explains that when people have immoral behavior, they fall into cognitive dissonance ; They enter into an internal conflict because their behavior does not correspond to their attitudes.

To solve this they can reinterpret their behavior, reject the negative consequences of their behavior, put the responsibility on the victim and dehumanize them.


Immoral acts can be classified into 4 types: self-destructive, individualistic, anti-equality, and destructive.


They are those immoral acts that are destructive to the person who practices them. Within this group we have acts such as suicide or self-harm and substance abuse that cause damage to the body.


They are the immoral acts that lead to create a barrier between the person who performs them and others. These acts respond to the need to prioritize one’s own well-being.

In this group we have acts such as fraud, where an individual scams or deceives another or others with the ultimate aim of profiting or obtaining some type of personal benefit.


They are immoral acts that segregate the population without paying attention to the moral code. For example, the marginalization of thieves or prostitutes is not considered an immoral act, because the segregation between thieves and non-thieves or between prostitutes and non-prostitutes responds to moral norms.

This is not the case when the poor or people with physical disabilities are marginalized. This last type of conduct is considered immoral.


Immoral acts that entail widespread harm —that is, that affect the whole of society— are considered destructive. Within this group are acts such as starting a fire in a forest.


– Since morality has its foundations in ethical values , it can be noted that immoral acts are opposed to ethical values.

– Purpose poorly defined. Immoral acts, although they generally generate social unrest, are not always carried out seeking to cause some harm to the social group.

– They are rejected by the social group. Society blames and punishes, either legally or through marginalization, people who exhibit immoral behavior.

– They can be instilled. Just as moral norms are learned within the family, immoral behaviors can also be acquired through continuous exposure to immoral acts. The individual naturalizes behavior in this way.

– They are not universal. What for some societies may be considered immoral for other social groups may not be; for example, homosexuality.


Some examples of acts considered immoral are:


A person who steals from a fellow man is exhibiting conduct that is considered immoral in most societies and is also punishable by law.

The act of stealing necessarily entails damage to another person, the victim. This type of act is blamed by society and punished by law.


Murder is considered immoral in most societies. However, this consideration may vary depending on the context.

For example, in a situation of warfare, soldiers who have killed many enemies are decorated with medals of honor and honored by society.

To be unfaithful

Not respecting the commitment established with a person and beginning to relate lovingly with other people is reproved by many societies.

In the case of infidelity, there are three parties involved. The person deceived and who has been betrayed by lacking the oath of fidelity, is the victim; whoever commits the act of adultery and, on many occasions, the partner who has caused the adultery, will be judged as immoral.

However, at this point we cannot forget that fidelity must be interpreted in cultural terms. Many societies practice polygamy, either on the part of both members or only on the part of one of them. In these cases, fidelity – and therefore the immoral acts associated with it – take on different shades.

Commit suicide

Suicide is punishable by many religions, such as the Catholic one. The Catholic moral code states that people who die by suicide will go to hell for all eternity.

However, in other cultures such as the Japanese, suicide is not condemned. For example, harakiri is a widespread practice among samurai to maintain their honor or pay for their disgrace.

To kidnap

A kidnapping implies depriving the victim of liberty. Therefore, it is an immoral act punished by law and condemned by society.

Eat human flesh

Eating human flesh is considered an immoral act. However, in some tribes of the world – as, for example, in Papua New Guinea – this type of practice is carried out without conflicting with the established moral code.

Being greedy

Greed pursues the accumulation of goods. The moral code based on religion establishes generosity as a moral value; therefore, being greedy is considered an immoral act. However, in an increasingly consumerist and materialistic society, greed is considered synonymous with ambition.

Being an ambitious person is within the moral code of developed societies. So, as long as material things are achieved without committing other immoral acts – such as stealing, cheating, murdering, etc. – society will not punish such conduct.


  1. The 4 types of antivalues, and examples. Consulted from psicologí
  2. Immoral. Consulted from
  3. Bietti, LM (2009). Cognitive dissonance: cognitive processes to justify immoral actions. Consulted from
  4. 1o Characteristics of moral norms. Consulted from
  5. Tong-Keun Min. A Study on the Hierarchy of Values. Recovered from

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