Dual processes of emotion and reason in judgments about moral dilemmas

Thinking and Reasoning 20 (2):245-268 (2014)
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We report the results of two experiments that show that participants rely on both emotion and reason in moral judgments. Experiment 1 showed that when participants were primed to communicate feelings, they provided emotive justifications not only for personal dilemmas, e.g., pushing a man from a bridge that will result in his death but save the lives of five others, but also for impersonal dilemmas, e.g., hitting a switch on a runaway train that will result in the death of one man but save the lives of five others; when they were primed to communicate thoughts, they provided non-emotive justifications for both personal and impersonal dilemmas. Experiment 2 showed that participants read about a protagonist's emotions more quickly when the protagonist was faced with a personal dilemma than an impersonal one, but they read about the protagonist's decision to act or not act equally quickly for personal and impersonal dilemmas.



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Ruth Mary Josephine Byrne
Trinity College, Dublin