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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Moral Fatigue: The Effects of Cognitive Fatigue on Moral Reasoning

S. Timmons and R. Byrne
Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology (March 2018)


We report two experiments that show a moral fatigue effect: participants who are fatigued after they have carried out a tiring cognitive task make different moral judgments compared to participants who are not fatigued. Fatigued participants tend to judge that a moral violation is less permissible even though it would have a beneficial effect, such as killing one person to save the lives of five others. The moral fatigue effect occurs when people make a judgment that focuses on the harmful action, killing one person, but not when they make a judgment that focuses on the beneficial outcome, saving the lives of others, as shown in Experiment 1 (n = 196). It also occurs for judgments about morally good actions, such as jumping onto railway tracks to save a person who has fallen there, as shown in Experiment 2 (n = 187). The results have implications for alternative explanations of moral reasoning.

The research is here.

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