Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Moral dilemma scenarios prone to biases

Date:
December 15, 2009
Source:
Wiley-Blackwell
Summary:
Picture the following hypothetical scenario: A trolley is headed toward five helpless victims. The trolley can be redirected so that only one person's life is at stake. Psychologists and philosophers have been using moral dilemmas like this for years asking, would you redirect the train?

Picture the following hypothetical scenario: A trolley is headed toward five helpless victims. The trolley can be redirected so that only one person's life is at stake. Psychologists and philosophers have been using moral dilemmas like this for years asking, would you redirect the train? Is it morally acceptable to do this? Experts usually switch up the details to see how different sub-scenarios affect moral judgment.

Many researchers have come to the conclusion that an individual's moral judgment in this type of scenario is strongly guided by abstract moral principles.

However, researchers of a study to appear in an upcoming issue of Cognitive Science see a problem with this approach, "Small changes in wording can affect judgments in ways that have nothing to do with differences in moral principles. Psychologists that analyze judgment and decision making in consumer behavior are aware of this fact. We applied these same methods to this scenario to illustrate that subjects' responses could not possibly be attributed to any known moral principles."

The study shows that it is often hard to distinguish between the influences of moral principles and more general biases. The authors make the claim that the conclusions of other researchers, which point to a strong moral influence, may be directly influenced by the researchers' disciplinary background (philosophy, etc.), rather than the morality of the individual.

When presented with moral dilemmas in which participants could sacrifice some people in order to save more, participants were highly sensitive to the proportion of lives saved (e.g. 8 out of 10 vs. 8 out of 40), and they demanded that more lives be saved when more lives were at risk, even though the number to be sacrificed remained constant. Participants are also less likely to support taking a moral action if they were asked to on their own generate more reasons for doing so.

The authors hope their research will lead to a more skeptical attitude towards drawing inferences regarding moral principles from studies of moral dilemmas, and that researchers will move to design other methods for studying moral judgments that move beyond the use of moral dilemmas.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wiley-Blackwell. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Wiley-Blackwell. "Moral dilemma scenarios prone to biases." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 December 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091214121525.htm>.
Wiley-Blackwell. (2009, December 15). Moral dilemma scenarios prone to biases. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091214121525.htm
Wiley-Blackwell. "Moral dilemma scenarios prone to biases." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091214121525.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) A new study says the season you're born in can determine your temperament — and one season has a surprising outcome. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Nigeria Beat Its Ebola Outbreak

How Nigeria Beat Its Ebola Outbreak

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) The World Health Organization has declared Nigeria free of Ebola. Health experts credit a bit of luck and the government's initial response. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Worries End for Dozens on U.S. Watch Lists

Ebola Worries End for Dozens on U.S. Watch Lists

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 20, 2014) Forty-three people who had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., were cleared overnight of twice-daily monitoring after 21 days of showing no symptoms. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins