How biases affect scenarios of moral dilemma

Posted By: Staff
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Washington, Dec 15 (ANI): When it comes to situations involving moral dilemmas, an individual's moral judgment is strongly guided by abstract moral principles. But, researchers of a study see a problem with this approach.

The study shows that it is often hard to distinguish between the influences of moral principles and more general biases.

"Small changes in wording can affect judgments in ways that have nothing to do with differences in moral principles. Psychologists that analyse judgment and decision-making in consumer behaviour 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," said the authors.

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 sceptical 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.

The study has been published in an upcoming issue of Cognitive Science. (ANI)

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