Journal article

Utilitarian preferences or action preferences? De-confounding action and moral code in sacrificial dilemmas

Damien L Crone, Simon M Laham

Personality and Individual Differences | PERGAMON-ELSEVIER SCIENCE LTD | Published : 2017


A large literature in moral psychology investigates utilitarian versus deontological moral preferences using sacrificial dilemmas (e.g., the Trolley Problem) in which one can endorse harming one person for the greater good. The validity of sacrificial dilemma responses as indicators of one's preferred moral code is a neglected topic of study. One underexplored cause for concern is that standard sacrificial dilemmas confound the endorsement of specific moral codes with the endorsement of action such that endorsing utilitarianism always requires endorsing action. Two studies show that, after de-confounding these factors, the tendency to endorse action appears about as predictive of sacrificial..

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Funding Acknowledgements

This project was funded by an internal grant provided by The University of Melbourne. We are grateful to Chelsea Corless and Michael Susman for providing valuable feedback on previous drafts and assistance with data collection for Study 2, and to Margaret Webb, Jonathan Baron, and members of the Melbourne Moral Psychology Lab, and the Macquarie University Centre for Agency, Values and Ethics for feedback on previous versions of this work.