Alzahrani, Shrooq, Kusev, Petko and van Schaik, Paul (2013) Moral Judgments Under Uncertainty. In: Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society, 14-17th November 2013, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Unpublished)

Research on ‘moral dilemmas’ has shown that
respondents judge personal moral actions (“to push” in the footbridge dilemma) as less appropriate than equivalent impersonal moral actions (“to switch” in the trolley dilemma).
Furthermore, theorists argued (e.g., Greene et al., 2001) that judgments of appropriateness in personal moral dilemmas are (i) more emotionally salient than impersonal moral dilemmas,
and (ii) more cognitively demanding, as respondents spend
relatively more time judging the appropriateness of personal
moral actions. In contrast, in one experiment, we found that
(i) the level of uncertainty regarding moral actions predicted
judgments of appropriateness and (ii) participants spent
relatively more time judging the appropriateness of actions in
moral dilemmas with a high level of uncertainty. These results
question existing theoretical accounts based on “cognitive
emotional parameters” in processing of morally sensitive
information, and offer a simple cognitive explanation, based
on learning and elimination of uncertainty.

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