By Lucius Caviola and Nadira Faulmüller
Several studies show that stress can influence moral judgment and behavior. In personal moral dilemmas—scenarios where someone has to be harmed by physical contact in order to save several others—participants under stress tend to make more deontological judgments than non-stressed participants, i.e. they agree less with harming someone for the greater good. Other studies demonstrate that stress can increase pro-social behavior for in-group members but decrease it for out-group members. The dual-process theory of moral judgment in combination with an evolutionary perspective on emotional reactions seems to explain these results: stress might inhibit controlled reasoning and trigger people’s automatic emotional intuitions. In other words, when it comes to morality, stress seems to make us prone to follow our gut reactions instead of our elaborate reasoning.