Articles

The motivated use of moral principles

E. L. UHLMANN, D. Pizarro, D. Tannenbaum, P. Ditto

Judgment and Decision Making

October 2009, vol. 4, n°6, pp.476-491

Departments: Management & Human Resources


Five studies demonstrated that people selectively use general moral principles to rationalize preferred moral conclusions. In Studies 1a and 1b, college students and community respondents were presented with variations on a traditional moral scenario that asked whether it was permissible to sacrifice one innocent man in order to save a greater number of people. Political liberals, but not relatively more conservative participants, were more likely to endorse consequentialismwhen the victim had a stereotypically White American name than when the victim had a stereotypically Black American name. Study 2 found evidence suggesting participants believe that the moral principles they are endorsing are general in nature: when presented sequentially with both versions of the scenario, liberals again showed a bias in their judgments to the initial scenario, but demonstrated consistency thereafter. Study 3 found conservatives were more likelyto endorse the unintended killing of innocent civilians when Iraqis civilians were killed than when Americans civilians were killed, while liberals showed no significant effect. In Study 4, participants primed with patriotism were more likely to endorse consequentialism when Iraqi civilians were killed by American forces than were participants primed with multiculturalism. However, this was not the case when American civilians were killed by Iraqi forces. Implications for the role of reason in moral judgment are discussed.Keywords: moral judgment, motivated reasoning, consequentialism, deontology


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