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Monday, February 15, 2021

Response time modelling reveals evidence for multiple, distinct sources of moral decision caution

Andrejević, M., et al. 
(2020, November 13). 


People are often cautious in delivering moral judgments of others’ behaviours, as falsely accusing others of wrongdoing can be costly for social relationships. Caution might further be present when making judgements in information-dynamic environments, as contextual updates can change our minds. This study investigated the processes with which moral valence and context expectancy drive caution in moral judgements. Across two experiments, participants (N = 122) made moral judgements of others’ sharing actions. Prior to judging, participants were informed whether contextual information regarding the deservingness of the recipient would follow. We found that participants slowed their moral judgements when judging negatively valenced actions and when expecting contextual updates. Using a diffusion decision model framework, these changes were explained by shifts in drift rate and decision bias (valence) and boundary setting (context), respectively. These findings demonstrate how moral decision caution can be decomposed into distinct aspects of the unfolding decision process.

From the Discussion

Our findings that participants slowed their judgments when expecting contextual information is consistent with previous research showing that people are more cautious when aware that they are more prone to making mistakes. Notably, previous research has demonstrated this effect for decision mistakes in tasks in which people are not given additional information or a chance to change their minds.The current findings show that this effect also extends to dynamic decision-making contexts, in which learning additional information can lead to changes of mind. Crucially, here we show that this type of caution can be explained by the widening of the decision boundary separation in a process model of decision-making.