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
Showing posts with label Deontological. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Deontological. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Psychopathy and Moral-Dilemma Judgment: An Analysis Using the Four-Factor Model of Psychopathy and the CNI Model of Moral Decision-Making

Luke, D. M., Neumann, C. S., & Gawronski, B.
(2021). Clinical Psychological Science. 


A major question in clinical and moral psychology concerns the nature of the commonly presumed association between psychopathy and moral judgment. In the current preregistered study (N = 443), we aimed to address this question by examining the relation between psychopathy and responses to moral dilemmas pitting consequences for the greater good against adherence to moral norms. To provide more nuanced insights, we measured four distinct facets of psychopathy and used the CNI model to quantify sensitivity to consequences (C), sensitivity to moral norms (N), and general preference for inaction over action (I) in responses to moral dilemmas. Psychopathy was associated with a weaker sensitivity to moral norms, which showed unique links to the interpersonal and affective facets of psychopathy. Psychopathy did not show reliable associations with either sensitivity to consequences or general preference for inaction over action. Implications of these findings for clinical and moral psychology are discussed.

From the Discussion

In support of our hypotheses, general psychopathy scores and a superordinate latent variable (representing the broad syndrome of psychopathy) showed significant negative relations with sensitivity to moral norms, which suggests that people with elevated psychopathic traits were less sensitive to moral norms in their responses to moral dilemmas in comparison with other people. Further analyses at the facet level suggested that sensitivity to moral norms was uniquely associated with the interpersonal-affective facets of psychopathy. Both of these findings persisted when controlling for gender. As predicted, the antisocial facet showed a negative zero-order correlation with sensitivity to moral norms, but this association fell to nonsignificance when controlling for other facets of psychopathy and gender. At the manifest variable level, neither general psychopathy scores nor the four facets showed reliable relations with either sensitivity to consequences or general preference for inaction over action.


More broadly, the current findings have important implications for both clinical and moral psychology. For clinical psychology, our findings speak to ongoing questions about whether people with elevated levels of psychopathy exhibit disturbances in moral judgment. In a recent review of the literature on psychopathy and moral judgment, Larsen et al. (2020) claimed there was “no consistent, well-replicated evidence of observable deficits in . . . moral judgment” (p. 305). However, a notable limitation of this review is that its analysis of moral-dilemma research focused exclusively on studies that used the traditional approach. Consistent with past research using the CNI model (e.g., Gawronski et al., 2017; Körner et al., 2020; Luke & Gawronski, 2021a) and in contrast to Larsen et al.’s conclusion, the current findings indicate substantial deviations in moral-dilemma judgments among people with elevated psychopathic traits, particularly conformity to moral norms.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Sequential decision-making impacts moral judgment: How iterative dilemmas can expand our perspective on sacrificial harm

D.H. Bostyn and A.Roets
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume 98, January 2022, 104244


When are sacrificial harms morally appropriate? Traditionally, research within moral psychology has investigated this issue by asking participants to render moral judgments on batteries of single-shot, sacrificial dilemmas. Each of these dilemmas has its own set of targets and describes a situation independent from those described in the other dilemmas. Every decision that participants are asked to make thus takes place within its own, separate moral universe. As a result, people's moral judgments can only be influenced by what happens within that specific dilemma situation. This research methodology ignores that moral judgments are interdependent and that people might try to balance multiple moral concerns across multiple decisions. In the present series of studies we present participants with iterative versions of sacrificial dilemmas that involve the same set of targets across multiple iterations. Using this novel approach, and across five preregistered studies (total n = 1890), we provide clear evidence that a) responding to dilemmas in a sequential, iterative manner impacts the type of moral judgments that participants favor and b) that participants' moral judgments are not only motivated by the desire to refrain from harming others (usually labelled as deontological judgment), or a desire to minimize harms (utilitarian judgment), but also by a desire to spread out harm across all possible targets.


• Research on sacrificial harm usually asks participants to judge single-shot dilemmas.

• We investigate sacrificial moral dilemma judgment in an iterative context.

• Sequential decision making impacts moral preferences.

• Many participants express a non-utilitarian concern for the overall spread of harm.

Moral deliberation in iterative contexts

The iterative lens we have adopted prompts some intriguing questions about the nature of moral deliberation in the context of sacrificial harm. Existing theoretical models on sacrificial harm can be described as ‘competition models’ (for instance, Conway & Gawronski, 2013; Gawronski et al., 2017; Greene et al., 2001, 2004; Hennig & Hütter, 2020). These models argue that opposing psychological processes compete to deliver a specific moral judgment and that the process that wins out, will determine the nature of that moral judgment. As such, these models presume that the goal of moral deliberation is about deciding whether to refrain from harm or minimize harm in a mutually exclusive manner. Even if participants are tempted by both options, eventually, their judgment settles wholly on one or the other. This is sensible in the context of non-iterative dilemmas in which outcomes hinge on a single decision but is it equally sensible in iterative contexts?

Consider the results of Study 4. In this study, we asked (a subset of) participants how many shocks they would divert out of a total six shocks. Interestingly, 32% of these participants decided to divert a single shock out of the six (See Fig. 6), thus shocking the individual once, and the group five times. How should such a decision be interpreted? These participants did not fully refrain from harming others, nor did they fully minimize harm, nor did they spread harm in the most balanced of ways.  Responses like this seem to straddle different moral concerns. While future research will need to corroborate these findings, we suggest that responses like this, i.e. responses that seem to straddle multiple moral concerns, cannot be explained by competition models but necessitate theoretical models that explicitly take into account that participants might strive to strike a (idiosyncratic) pluralistic balance between multiple moral concerns. 

Monday, December 14, 2020

Should you save the more useful? The effect of generality on moral judgments about rescue and indirect effects

Caviola, L., Schubert, S., & Mogensen, A. 
(2020, October 23). 


Across eight experiments (N = 2,310), we studied whether people would prioritize rescuing individuals who may be thought to contribute more to society. We found that participants were generally dismissive of general rules that prioritize more socially beneficial individuals, such as doctors instead of unemployed people. By contrast, participants were more supportive of one-off decisions to save the life of a more socially beneficial individual, even when such cases were the same as those covered by the rule. This generality effect occurred robustly even when controlling for various factors. It occurred when the decision-maker was the same in both cases, when the pairs of people differing in the extent of their indirect social utility was varied, when the scenarios were varied, when the participant samples came from different countries, and when the general rule only covered cases that are exactly the same as the situation described in the one-off condition. The effect occurred even when the general rule was introduced via a concrete precedent case. Participants’ tendency to be more supportive of the one-off proposal than the general rule was significantly reduced when they evaluated the two proposals jointly as opposed to separately. Finally, the effect also occurred in sacrificial moral dilemmas, suggesting it is a more general phenomenon in certain moral contexts. We discuss possible explanations of the effect, including concerns about negative consequences of the rule and a deontological aversion against making difficult trade-off decisions unless they are absolutely necessary.

General Discussion

Across our studies we found evidence for a generality effect: participants were more supportive of a proposal to prioritize people who are more beneficial to society than others if this applies to a concrete one-off situation than if it describes a general rule. The effect showed robustly even when controlling for various factors. It occurred even when the decision-maker was the same in both cases (Study 2), when the pairs of people differing in the extent of their indirect social utility was varied (Study 3), when the scenarios were varied (Study 3, Study 6), when the participant samples came from different countries (Study 3), and when the rule only entails cases that are exactly the same as the one-off case (Study 6). The effect also occurred when the general rule was introduced via a concrete precedent case (Study 4 and 6). The tendency to be more supportive of the one-off proposal than the general rule was significantly reduced when participants evaluated the two proposals jointly as opposed to separately (Study 7). Finally, we found that the effect also occurs in sacrificial moral dilemmas (Study 8), suggesting that it is a more general phenomenon in moral contexts.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

A Failure of Empathy Led to 200,000 Deaths. It Has Deep Roots.

Olga Khazan
The Atlantic
Originally published 22 September 20

Here is an excerpt:

Indeed, doctors follow a similar logic. In a May paper in the New England Journal of Medicine, a group of doctors from different countries suggested that hospitals consider prioritizing younger patients if they are forced to ration ventilators. “Maximizing benefits requires consideration of prognosis—how long the patient is likely to live if treated—which may mean giving priority to younger patients and those with fewer coexisting conditions,” they wrote. Perhaps, on a global scale, we’ve internalized the idea that the young matter more than the old.

The Moral Machine is not without its criticisms. Some psychologists say that the trolley problem, a similar and more widely known moral dilemma, is too silly and unrealistic to say anything about our true ethics. In a response to the Moral Machine experiment, another group of researchers conducted a comparable study and found that people actually prefer to treat everyone equally, if given the option to do so. In other words, people didn’t want to kill the elderly; they just opted to do so over killing young people, when pressed. (In that experiment, though, people still would kill the criminals.) Shariff says these findings simply show that people don’t like dilemmas. Given the option, anyone would rather say “treat everybody equally,” just so they don’t have to decide.

Bolstering that view, in another recent paper, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, people preferred giving a younger hypothetical COVID-19 patient an in-demand ventilator rather than an older one. They did this even when they were told to imagine themselves as potentially being the older patient who would therefore be sacrificed. The participants were hidden behind a so-called veil of ignorance—told they had a “50 percent chance of being a 65-year-old who gets to live another 15 years, and a 50 percent chance of dying at age 25.” That prompt made the participants favor the young patient even more. When told to look at the situation objectively, saving young lives seemed even better.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Uncovering the moral heuristics of altruism: A philosophical scale

Friedland J, Emich K, Cole BM (2020)
PLoS ONE 15(3): e0229124.


Extant research suggests that individuals employ traditional moral heuristics to support their observed altruistic behavior; yet findings have largely been limited to inductive extrapolation and rely on relatively few traditional frames in so doing, namely, deontology in organizational behavior and virtue theory in law and economics. Given that these and competing moral frames such as utilitarianism can manifest as identical behavior, we develop a moral framing instrument—the Philosophical Moral-Framing Measure (PMFM)—to expand and distinguish traditional frames associated and disassociated with observed altruistic behavior. The validation of our instrument based on 1015 subjects in 3 separate real stakes scenarios indicates that heuristic forms of deontology, virtue-theory, and utilitarianism are strongly related to such behavior, and that egoism is an inhibitor. It also suggests that deontic and virtue-theoretical frames may be commonly perceived as intertwined and opens the door for new research on self-abnegation, namely, a perceived moral obligation toward suffering and self-denial. These findings hold the potential to inform ongoing conversations regarding organizational citizenship and moral crowding out, namely, how financial incentives can undermine altruistic behavior.

The research is here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The effectiveness of moral messages on public health behavioral intentions during the COVID-19 pandemic

J. Everett, C. Colombatta, & others
PsyArXiv PrePrints
Originally posted 20 March 20

With the COVID-19 pandemic threatening millions of lives, changing our behaviors to prevent the spread of the disease is a moral imperative. Here, we investigated the effectiveness of messages inspired by three major moral traditions on public health behavioral intentions. A sample of US participants representative for age, sex and race/ethnicity (N=1032) viewed messages from either a leader or citizen containing deontological, virtue-based, utilitarian, or non-moral justifications for adopting social distancing behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic. We measured the messages’ effects on participants’ self-reported intentions to wash hands, avoid social gatherings, self-isolate, and share health messages, as well as their beliefs about others’ intentions, impressions of the messenger’s morality and trustworthiness, and beliefs about personal control and responsibility for preventing the spread of disease. Consistent with our pre-registered predictions, deontological messages had modest effects across several measures of behavioral intentions, second-order beliefs, and impressions of the messenger, while virtue-based messages had modest effects on personal responsibility for preventing the spread. These effects were observed for messages from leaders and citizens alike. Our findings are at odds with participants’ own beliefs about moral persuasion: a majority of participants predicted the utilitarian message would be most effective. We caution that these effects are modest in size, likely due to ceiling effects on our measures of behavioral intentions and strong heterogeneity across all dependent measures along several demographic dimensions including age, self-identified gender, self-identified race, political conservatism, and religiosity. Although the utilitarian message was the least effective among those tested, individual differences in one key dimension of utilitarianism—impartial concern for the greater good—were strongly and positively associated with public health intentions and beliefs. Overall, our preliminary results suggest that public health messaging focused on duties and responsibilities toward family, friends and fellow citizens will be most effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in the US. Ongoing work is investigating whether deontological persuasion generalizes across different populations, what aspects of deontological messages drive their persuasive effects, and how such messages can be most effectively delivered across global populations.

The research is here.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Sex Premium in Religiously Motivated Moral Judgment

Image result for sexual behavior moralityLiana Hone, Thomas McCauley, Eric Pedersen,
Evan Carter, and Michael McCullough
PsyArXiv Preprints


Religion encourages people to reason about moral issues deontologically rather than on the basis of the perceived consequences of specific actions. However, recent theorizing suggests that religious people’s moral convictions are actually quite strategic (albeit unconsciously so), designed to make their worlds more amenable to their favored approaches to solving life’s basic challenges. In six experiments, we find that religious cognition places a “sex premium” on moral judgments, causing people to judge violations of conventional sexual morality as particularly objectionable. The sex premium is especially strong among highly religious people, and applies to both legal and illegal acts. Religion’s influence on moral reasoning, even if deontological, emphasizes conventional sexual norms, and may reflect the strategic projects to which religion has been applied throughout history.

From the Discussion

How does the sex premium in religiously motivated moral judgment arise during development? We see three plausible pathways. First, society’s vectors for religious cultural learning may simply devote more attention to sex and reproduction than to prosociality when they seek to influence others’ moral stances. Conservative preachers, for instance, devote more time to issues of sexual purity than do liberal preachers, and religious parents discuss the morality of sex with their children more frequently than do less religious parents, even though they discuss sex with their children less frequently overall. Second, strong emotions facilitate cultural learning by improving attention, memory, and motivation, and few human experiences generate stronger emotions than do sex and reproduction. If the emotions that regulate sexual attraction, arousal, and avoidance (e.g., sexual disgust) are stronger than those that regulate prosocial behavior (e.g., empathy; moralistic anger), then the sex premium documented here may emerge from the fact that religiously motivated sexual moralists can create more powerful cultural learning experiences than prosocial moralists can.  Finally, given the extreme importance of sex and reproduction to fitness, the children of religiously adherent adults may observe that violations of local sexual standards to evoke greater moral outrage and condemnation from third parties than do violations of local standards for prosocial behavior.

The research is here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Moral leaders perform better, but what’s ‘moral’ is up for debate

Matthew Biddle
State University of New York - Buffalo - Pressor
Originally released October 22, 2018

New research from the University at Buffalo School of Management is clear: Leaders who value morality outperform their unethical peers, regardless of industry, company size or role. However, because we all define a “moral leader” differently, leaders who try to do good may face unexpected difficulties.

Led by Jim Lemoine, PhD, assistant professor of organization and human resources, the research team examined more than 300 books, essays and studies on moral leadership from 1970-2018. They discovered that leaders who prioritized morality had higher performing organizations with less turnover, and that their employees were more creative, proactive, engaged and satisfied.

A pre-press version of the study appeared online this month ahead of publication in the Academy of Management Annals in January 2019.

“Over and over again, our research found that followers perceived ethical leaders as more effective and trusted, and those leaders enjoyed greater personal well-being than managers with questionable morality,” Lemoine says. “The problem is, though, that when we talk about an ‘ethical business leader,’ we’re often not talking about the same person.”

The pressor is here.

The research is here.

Moral forms of leadership such as ethical, authentic, and servant leadership have seen a surge of interest in the 21st century. The proliferation of morally-based leadership approaches has resulted in theoretical confusion and empirical overlap that mirror substantive concerns within the larger leadership domain. Our integrative review of this literature reveals connections with moral philosophy that provide a useful framework to better differentiate the specific moral content (i.e., deontology, virtue ethics, and consequentialism) that undergirds ethical, authentic, and servant leadership respectively. Taken together, this integrative review clarifies points of integration and differentiation among moral approaches to leadership and delineates avenues for future research that promise to build complementary rather than redundant knowledge regarding how moral approaches to leadership inform the broader leadership domain.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Social observation increases deontological judgments in moral dilemmas

Minwoo Leea, Sunhae Sul, Hackjin Kim
Evolution and Human Behavior
Available online 18 June 2018


A concern for positive reputation is one of the core motivations underlying various social behaviors in humans. The present study investigated how experimentally induced reputation concern modulates judgments in moral dilemmas. In a mixed-design experiment, participants were randomly assigned to the observed vs. the control group and responded to a series of trolley-type moral dilemmas either in the presence or absence of observers, respectively. While no significant baseline difference in personality traits and moral decision style were found across two groups of participants, our analyses revealed that social observation promoted deontological judgments especially for moral dilemmas involving direct physical harm (i.e., the personal moral dilemmas), yet with an overall decrease in decision confidence and significant prolongation of reaction time. Moreover, participants in the observed group, but not in the control group, showed the increased sensitivities towards warmth vs. competence traits words in the lexical decision task performed after the moral dilemma task. Our findings suggest that reputation concern, once triggered by the presence of potentially judgmental others, could activate a culturally dominant norm of warmth in various social contexts. This could, in turn, induce a series of goal-directed processes for self-presentation of warmth, leading to increased deontological judgments in moral dilemmas. The results of the present study provide insights into the reputational consequences of moral decisions that merit further exploration.

The article is here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Can a machine be ethical? Why teaching AI ethics is a minefield.

Scotty Hendricks
Originally published May 31, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Dr. Moor gives the example of Isaac Asimov’s three rules of robotics. For those who need a refresher, they are:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

The rules are hierarchical, and the robots in Asimov’s books are all obligated to follow them.

Dr. Moor suggests that the problems with these rules are obvious. The first rule is so general that an artificial intelligence following them “might be obliged by the First Law to roam the world attempting to prevent harm from befalling human beings” and therefore be useless for its original function!

Such problems can be common in deontological systems, where following good rules can lead to funny results. Asimov himself wrote several stories about potential problems with the laws. Attempts to solve this issue abound, but the challenge of making enough rules to cover all possibilities remains. 

On the other hand, a machine could be programmed to stick to utilitarian calculus when facing an ethical problem. This would be simple to do, as the computer would only have to be given a variable and told to make choices that would maximize the occurrence of it. While human happiness is a common choice, wealth, well-being, or security are also possibilities.

The article is here.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Deontological Dilemma Response Tendencies and Sensorimotor Representations of Harm to Others

Leonardo Christov-Moore, Paul Conway, and Marco Iacoboni
Front. Integr. Neurosci., 12 December 2017

The dual process model of moral decision-making suggests that decisions to reject causing harm on moral dilemmas (where causing harm saves lives) reflect concern for others. Recently, some theorists have suggested such decisions actually reflect self-focused concern about causing harm, rather than witnessing others suffering. We examined brain activity while participants witnessed needles pierce another person’s hand, versus similar non-painful stimuli. More than a month later, participants completed moral dilemmas where causing harm either did or did not maximize outcomes. We employed process dissociation to independently assess harm-rejection (deontological) and outcome-maximization (utilitarian) response tendencies. Activity in the posterior inferior frontal cortex (pIFC) while participants witnessed others in pain predicted deontological, but not utilitarian, response tendencies. Previous brain stimulation studies have shown that the pIFC seems crucial for sensorimotor representations of observed harm. Hence, these findings suggest that deontological response tendencies reflect genuine other-oriented concern grounded in sensorimotor representations of harm.

The article is here.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The costs of being consequentialist: Social perceptions of those who harm and help for the greater good

Everett, J. A. C., Faber, N. S., Savulescu, J., & Crockett, M. (2017, December 15).
The Cost of Being Consequentialist. Retrieved from psyarxiv.com/a2kx6


Previous work has demonstrated that people are more likely to trust “deontological” agents who reject instrumentally harming one person to save a greater number than “consequentialist” agents who endorse such harm in pursuit of the greater good. It has been argued that these differential social perceptions of deontological vs. consequentialist agents could explain the higher prevalence of deontological moral intuitions. Yet consequentialism involves much more than decisions to endorse instrumental harm: another critical dimension is impartial beneficence, defined as the impartial maximization of the greater good, treating the well-being of every individual as equally important. In three studies (total N = 1,634), we investigated preferences for deontological vs. consequentialist social partners in both the domains of instrumental harm and impartial beneficence, and consider how such preferences vary across different types of social relationships.  Our results demonstrate consistent preferences for deontological over consequentialist agents across both domains of instrumental harm and impartial beneficence: deontological agents were viewed as more moral and trustworthy, and were actually entrusted with more money in a resource distribution task. However, preferences for deontological agents were stronger when those preferences were revealed via aversion to instrumental harm than impartial beneficence. Finally, in the domain of instrumental harm, deontological agents were uniformly preferred across a variety of social roles, but in the domain of impartial beneficence, people prefer deontologists for roles requiring direct interaction (friend, spouse, boss) but not for more distant roles with little-to-no personal interaction (political leader).

The research is here.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Is Pulling the Lever Sexy? Deontology as a Downstream Cue to Long-Term Mate Quality

Mitch Brown and Donald Sacco
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships
November 2017


Deontological and utilitarian moral decisions have unique communicative functions within the context of group living. Deontology more strongly communicates prosocial intentions, fostering greater perceptions of trust and desirability in general affiliative contexts. This general trustworthiness may extend to perceptions of fidelity in romantic relationships, leading to perceptions of deontological persons as better long-term mates, relative to utilitarians. In two studies, participants indicated desirability of both deontologists and utilitarians in long- and short-term mating contexts. In Study 1 (n = 102), women perceived a deontological man as more interested in long-term bonds, more desirable for long-term mating, and less prone to infidelity, relative to a utilitarian man. However, utilitarian men were undesirable as short-term mates. Study 2 (n = 112) had both men and women rate opposite sex targets’ desirability after learning of their moral decisions in a trolley problem. We replicated women’s preference for deontological men as long-term mates. Interestingly, both men and women reporting personal deontological motives were particularly sensitive to deontology communicating long-term desirability and fidelity, which could be a product of the general affiliative signal from deontology. Thus, one’s moral basis for decision-making, particularly deontologically-motivated moral decisions, may communicate traits valuable in long-term mating contexts.

The research is here.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Moral Hindsight

Nadine Fleischhut, Björn Meder, & Gerd Gigerenzer
Experimental Psychology (2017), 64, pp. 110-123.


How are judgments in moral dilemmas affected by uncertainty, as opposed to certainty? We tested the predictions of a consequentialist and deontological account using a hindsight paradigm. The key result is a hindsight effect in moral judgment. Participants in foresight, for whom the occurrence of negative side effects was uncertain, judged actions to be morally more permissible than participants in hindsight, who knew that negative side effects occurred. Conversely, when hindsight participants knew that no negative side effects occurred, they judged actions to be more permissible than participants in foresight. The second finding was a classical hindsight effect in probability estimates and a systematic relation between moral judgments and probability estimates. Importantly, while the hindsight effect in probability estimates was always present, a corresponding hindsight effect in moral judgments was only observed among “consequentialist” participants who indicated a cost-benefit trade-off as most important for their moral evaluation.

The article is here.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Why We Love Moral Rigidity

Matthew Hutson
Scientific American
Originally published on November 1, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

We don't evaluate others based on their philosophical ideologies per se, Pizarro says. Rather we look at how others' moral decisions “express the kind of motives, commitments and emotions we want people to have.” Coolheaded calculation has its benefits, but we want our friends to at least flinch before personally harming others. Indeed, people in the study who had argued for pushing the man were trusted more when they claimed that the decision was difficult.

Politicians and executives should pay heed. Leading requires making hard trade-offs—is a war or a cut in employee benefits worth the pain it inflicts? According to Pizarro, “you want your leader to genuinely have or at least be really good at displaying the right kinds of emotions when they're talking about that decision, to show that they didn't arrive at it callously.” Calmly weighing costs and benefits may do the most good for the most people, but it can also be a good way to lose friends.

The article is here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Are Kantians Better Social Partners? People Making Deontological Judgments are Perceived to Be More Prosocial than They Actually are

Capraro, Valerio and Sippel, Jonathan and Zhao, Bonan and others
(January 25, 2017).


Why do people make deontological decisions, although they often lead to overall unfavorable outcomes? One account is receiving considerable attention: deontological judgments may signal commitment to prosociality and thus may increase people's chances of being selected as social partners --- which carries obvious long-term benefits. Here we test this framework by experimentally exploring whether people making deontological judgments are expected to be more prosocial than those making consequentialist judgments and whether they are actually so. We use two ways of identifying deontological choices. In a first set of three studies, we use a single moral dilemma whose consequentialist course of action requires a strong violation of Kant's practical imperative that humans should never be used solely as a mere means. In a second set of two studies, we use two moral dilemmas: one whose consequentialist course of action requires no violation of the practical imperative, and one whose consequentialist course of action requires a strong violation of the practical imperative; and we focus on people changing decision when passing from the former dilemma to the latter one, thereby revealing a strong reluctance to violate Kant's imperative. Using economic games, we take three measures of prosociality: trustworthiness, altruism, and cooperation. Our results procure converging evidence for a perception bias according to which people making deontological choices are believed to be more prosocial than those making consequentialist choices, but actually they are not so. Thus, these results provide a piece of evidence against the assumption that deontological judgments signal commitment to prosociality.

The article is here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Inference of trustworthiness from intuitive moral judgments

Everett JA., Pizarro DA., Crockett MJ.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 145(6), Jun 2016, 772-787.

Moral judgments play a critical role in motivating and enforcing human cooperation, and research on the proximate mechanisms of moral judgments highlights the importance of intuitive, automatic processes in forming such judgments. Intuitive moral judgments often share characteristics with deontological theories in normative ethics, which argue that certain acts (such as killing) are absolutely wrong, regardless of their consequences. Why do moral intuitions typically follow deontological prescriptions, as opposed to those of other ethical theories? Here, we test a functional explanation for this phenomenon by investigating whether agents who express deontological moral judgments are more valued as social partners. Across 5 studies, we show that people who make characteristically deontological judgments are preferred as social partners, perceived as more moral and trustworthy, and are trusted more in economic games. These findings provide empirical support for a partner choice account of moral intuitions whereby typically deontological judgments confer an adaptive function by increasing a person's likelihood of being chosen as a cooperation partner. Therefore, deontological moral intuitions may represent an evolutionarily prescribed prior that was selected for through partner choice mechanisms.

The article is here.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Adaptive Utility of Deontology: Deontological Moral Decision-Making Fosters Perceptions of Trust and Likeability

Sacco, D.F., Brown, M., Lustgraaf, C.J.N. et al.
Evolutionary Psychological Science (2016).


Although various motives underlie moral decision-making, recent research suggests that deontological moral decision-making may have evolved, in part, to communicate trustworthiness to conspecifics, thereby facilitating cooperative relations. Specifically, social actors whose decisions are guided by deontological (relative to utilitarian) moral reasoning are judged as more trustworthy, are preferred more as social partners, and are trusted more in economic games. The current study extends this research by using an alternative manipulation of moral decision-making as well as the inclusion of target facial identities to explore the potential role of participant and target sex in reactions to moral decisions. Participants viewed a series of male and female targets, half of whom were manipulated to either have responded to five moral dilemmas consistent with an underlying deontological motive or utilitarian motive; participants indicated their liking and trust toward each target. Consistent with previous research, participants liked and trusted targets whose decisions were consistent with deontological motives more than targets whose decisions were more consistent with utilitarian motives; this effect was stronger for perceptions of trust. Additionally, women reported greater dislike for targets whose decisions were consistent with utilitarianism than men. Results suggest that deontological moral reasoning evolved, in part, to facilitate positive relations among conspecifics and aid group living and that women may be particularly sensitive to the implications of the various motives underlying moral decision-making.

The research is here.

Editor's Note: This research may apply to psychotherapy, leadership style, and politics.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Role of Emotional Intuitions in Moral Judgments and Decisions

Gee, Catherine. 2014.
Journal of Cognition and Neuroethics 2 (1): 161–171.


Joshua D. Greene asserts in his 2007 article “The Secret Joke of Kant’s Soul” that consequentialism is the superior moral theory compared to deontology due to its judgments arising from “cognitive” processes alone without (or very little) input from emotive processes. However, I disagree with Greene’s position and instead argue it is the combination of rational and emotive cognitive processes that are the key to forming a moral judgment. Studies on patients who suffered damage to their ventromedial prefrontal cortex will be discussed as they are real-life examples of individuals who, due to brain damage, make moral judgments based predominately on “cognitive” processes. These examples will demonstrate that the results of isolated “cognitive” mental processing are hardly what Greene envisioned. Instead of superior processing and judgments, these individuals show significant impairment. As such, Greene’s account ought to be dismissed for does not stand up to philosophical scrutiny or the psychological literature on this topic.

The article is here.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Gender Differences in Responses to Moral Dilemmas: A Process Dissociation Analysis

Rebecca Friesdorf, Paul Conway, and Bertram Gawronski
Pers Soc Psychol Bull, first published on April 3, 2015


The principle of deontology states that the morality of an action depends on its consistency with moral norms; the principle of utilitarianism implies that the morality of an action depends on its consequences. Previous research suggests that deontological judgments are shaped by affective processes, whereas utilitarian judgments are guided by cognitive processes. The current research used process dissociation (PD) to independently assess deontological and utilitarian inclinations in women and men. A meta-analytic re-analysis of 40 studies with 6,100 participants indicated that men showed a stronger preference for utilitarian over deontological judgments than women when the two principles implied conflicting decisions (d = 0.52). PD further revealed that women exhibited stronger deontological inclinations than men (d = 0.57), while men exhibited only slightly stronger utilitarian inclinations than women (d = 0.10). The findings suggest that gender differences in moral dilemma judgments are due to differences in affective responses to harm rather than cognitive evaluations of outcomes.

The article is here.