Judging the morality of utilitarian actions: how poor utilitarian accessibility makes judges irrational

Kusev, P., van Schaik, P., Alzahrani, S., Lonigro, S. and Purser, H. ORCID: 0000-0003-3307-8421, 2016. Judging the morality of utilitarian actions: how poor utilitarian accessibility makes judges irrational. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 23 (6), pp. 1961-1967. ISSN 1069-9384

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Abstract

Is it acceptable and moral to sacrifice a few people’s lives to save many others? Research on moral dilemmas in psychology, experimental philosophy and neuropsychology has shown that respondents judge utilitarian personal moral actions (footbridge dilemma) as less appropriate than equivalent utilitarian impersonal moral actions (trolley dilemma). Accordingly, theorists (e.g., Greene et al., 2001) have argued that judgments of appropriateness in personal moral dilemmas are more emotionally salient and cognitively demanding (taking more time to be rational) than impersonal moral dilemmas. Our novel findings show an effect of psychological accessibility (driven by partial contextual information; Kahneman, 2003) on utilitarian moral behavior and response time for rational choices. Enhanced accessibility of utilitarian outcomes through comprehensive information about moral actions and consequences boosted utility maximization in moral choices, with rational choices taking less time. Moreover, our result suggests that previous results indicating emotional interference, with rational choices taking more time to make, may have been artifacts of presenting partial information.

Item Type: Journal article
Alternative Title: Utilitarian accessibility in moral judgments
Publication Title: Psychonomic Bulletin & Review
Creators: Kusev, P., van Schaik, P., Alzahrani, S., Lonigro, S. and Purser, H.
Publisher: Springer US and The Psychonomic Society
Date: December 2016
Volume: 23
Number: 6
ISSN: 1069-9384
Identifiers:
NumberType
10.3758/s13423-016-1029-2DOI
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Depositing User: Jill Tomkinson
Date Added: 14 Oct 2016 09:32
Last Modified: 26 Oct 2017 14:58
URI: http://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/28857

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