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Monday, February 3, 2020

Explaining moral behavior: A minimal moral model.

Osman, M., & Wiegmann, A.
Experimental Psychology (2017)
64(2), 68-81.


In this review we make a simple theoretical argument which is that for theory development, computational modeling, and general frameworks for understanding moral psychology researchers should build on domain-general principles from reasoning, judgment, and decision-making research. Our approach is radical with respect to typical models that exist in moral psychology that tend to propose complex innate moral grammars and even evolutionarily guided moral principles. In support of our argument we show that by using a simple value-based decision model we can capture a range of core moral behaviors. Crucially, the argument we propose is that moral situations per se do not require anything specialized or different from other situations in which we have to make decisions, inferences, and judgments in order to figure out how to act.

From the Implications section:

If instead moral behavior is viewed as a domain-general process, the findings can easily be accounted for based on existing literature from judgment and decision-making research such as Tversky’s (1969) work on intransitive preferences.

The same benefits of this research approach extend to the moral philosophy domain. As we described at the beginning of the paper, empirical research can inform philosophers as to which moral intuitions are likely to be biased. If moral judgments, decisions, and behavior can be captured by well-developed domain-general theories then our theoretical and empirical resources for gaining  knowledge about moral intuitions would be much greater, as compared to the recourses provided by moral psychology alone.

The paper can be downloaded here.