Journal article

The influence of war on moral judgments about harm

Hanne M Watkins, Simon Laham

EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY | WILEY | Published : 2019

Abstract

How does war influence moral judgments about harm? While the general rule is “thou shalt not kill,” war appears to provide an exception to the moral prohibition on intentional harm. In three studies (n = 263, n = 557, n = 793), we quantify the difference in moral judgments across peace and war contexts, and explore two possible explanations for the difference. The findings demonstrate that third-party observers judge a trade-off of one life for five as more morally acceptable in war than in peace, especially if the one person is from an outgroup of the person making the trade-off. In addition, the robust difference in moral judgments across “switch” and “footbridge” trolley problems is atten..

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