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Friday, June 16, 2017

On What Basis Do Terrorists Make Moral Judgments?

Kendra Pierre-Louis
Popular Science
Originally published May 26, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

“Multiple studies across the world have systematically shown that in judging the morality of an action, civilized individuals typically attach greater importance to intentions than outcomes,” Ibáñez told PopSci. “If an action is aimed to induce harm, it does not matter whether it was successful or not: most people consider it as less morally admissible than other actions in which harm was neither intended nor inflicted, or even actions in which harm was caused by accident.”

For most of us, intent matters. If I mean to slam you to the ground and I fail, that’s far worse than if I don’t mean to slam you to the ground and I do. If that sounds like a no-brainer, you should know that for the terrorists in the study, the morality was flipped. They rated accidental harm as worse than the failed intentional harm, because in one situation someone doesn’t get hurt, while in the second situation someone does. Write the study’s authors, “surprisingly, this moral judgement resembles that observed at early development stages.”

Perhaps more chilling, this tendency to focus on the outcomes rather than the underlying intention means that the terrorists are focused more on outcomes than your average person, and that terror behavior is "goal directed." Write the study's authors "... our sample is characterized by a general tendency to focus more on the outcomes of actions than on the actions' underlying intentions." In essence terrorism is the world's worst productivity system, because when coupled with rational choice theory—which says that we tend to act in ways that maximize getting our way with the least amount of personal sacrifice—murdering a lot of people to get your goal, absent moral stigma, starts to make sense.

The article is here.