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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Utilitarian preferences or action preferences? De-confounding action and moral code in sacrificial dilemmas

Damien L. Crone & Simon M. Laham
Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 104, January 2017, Pages 476-481


A large literature in moral psychology investigates utilitarian versus deontological moral preferences using sacrificial dilemmas (e.g., the Trolley Problem) in which one can endorse harming one person for the greater good. The validity of sacrificial dilemma responses as indicators of one's preferred moral code is a neglected topic of study. One underexplored cause for concern is that standard sacrificial dilemmas confound the endorsement of specific moral codes with the endorsement of action such that endorsing utilitarianism always requires endorsing action. Two studies show that, after de-confounding these factors, the tendency to endorse action appears about as predictive of sacrificial dilemma responses as one's preference for a particular moral code, suggesting that, as commonly used, sacrificial dilemma responses are poor indicators of moral preferences. Interestingly however, de-confounding action and moral code may provide a more valid means of inferring one's preferred moral code.

The article is here.