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Thursday, October 15, 2015

How stress influences our morality

By Lucius Caviola & Nadira S. Faber
The Inquisitive Mind
Issues 23, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

Moral judgments seem to be affected by stress only when the situation elicits an emotional reaction strong enough to be impacted by the stress reactions such as trolley-like personal moral dilemmas. For example, Starcke, Polzer, Wolf, and Brand (2011) used everyday moral dilemmas that were less extreme compared to the trolley dilemma, for example, asking participants whether they would leave a message to the owner of a car that they had accidentally scratched. They did observe an association between people’s cortisol levels and egoistic judgments in those dilemmas considered to be most emotional. However, the researchers failed to find a significant difference in judgments between stressed and non-stressed participants, presumably because the moral vignettes used in this study did not elicit emotions that were strong enough to cause a difference compared to trolley-like personal moral dilemmas.

Nonetheless, many of us are confronted with highly emotional moral situations in real life in which our judgments could be influenced by stress. For example, people might be more prone to help a child beggar on the street if they feel stressed after an uncomfortable meeting at work. Even more worryingly, doctors who face life-and-death decisions might be influenced by the daily stress they experience.

The entire article is here.