Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

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.