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Cognition. 2011 Oct;121(1):154-61. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2011.05.010. Epub 2011 Jul 16.

The mismeasure of morals: antisocial personality traits predict utilitarian responses to moral dilemmas.

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  • 1Columbia University, Uris Hall 502, 3022 Broadway, New York, NY 10027, USA. dmb2199@columbia.edu

Abstract

Researchers have recently argued that utilitarianism is the appropriate framework by which to evaluate moral judgment, and that individuals who endorse non-utilitarian solutions to moral dilemmas (involving active vs. passive harm) are committing an error. We report a study in which participants responded to a battery of personality assessments and a set of dilemmas that pit utilitarian and non-utilitarian options against each other. Participants who indicated greater endorsement of utilitarian solutions had higher scores on measures of Psychopathy, machiavellianism, and life meaninglessness. These results question the widely-used methods by which lay moral judgments are evaluated, as these approaches lead to the counterintuitive conclusion that those individuals who are least prone to moral errors also possess a set of psychological characteristics that many would consider prototypically immoral.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

PMID:
21757191
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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