Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Utilitarian Moral Judgments Are Cognitively Too Demanding

Da Silva, Sergio and Matsushita, Raul and De Sousa, Maicon (2016): Utilitarian Moral Judgments Are Cognitively Too Demanding. Published in: Open Access Library Journal , Vol. 3, No. 2 (2016): pp. 1-9.

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Abstract

We evaluate utilitarian judgments under the dual-system approach of the mind. In the study, participants respond to a cognitive reflection test and five (sacrificial and greater good) dilemmas that pit utilitarian and non-utilitarian options against each other. There is judgment reversal across the dilemmas, a result that casts doubt in considering utilitarianism as a stable, ethical standard to evaluate the quality of moral judgments. In all the dilemmas, participants find the utilitarian judgment too demanding in terms of cognitive currency because it requires non-automatic, deliberative thinking. In turn, their moral intuitions related to the automatic mind are frame dependent, and thus can be either utilitarian or non-utilitarian. This suggests that automatic moral judgments are about descriptions, not about substance.

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