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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2013 Feb;104(2):216-35. doi: 10.1037/a0031021. Epub 2012 Dec 31.

Deontological and utilitarian inclinations in moral decision making: a process dissociation approach.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, The University of Western Ontario, Canada. pconway2@uwo.ca

Abstract

Dual-process theories of moral judgment suggest that responses to moral dilemmas are guided by two moral principles: the principle of deontology states that the morality of an action depends on the intrinsic nature of the action (e.g., harming others is wrong regardless of its consequences); the principle of utilitarianism implies that the morality of an action is determined by its consequences (e.g., harming others is acceptable if it increases the well-being of a greater number of people). Despite the proposed independence of the moral inclinations reflecting these principles, previous work has relied on operationalizations in which stronger inclinations of one kind imply weaker inclinations of the other kind. The current research applied Jacoby's (1991) process dissociation procedure to independently quantify the strength of deontological and utilitarian inclinations within individuals. Study 1 confirmed the usefulness of process dissociation for capturing individual differences in deontological and utilitarian inclinations, revealing positive correlations of both inclinations to moral identity. Moreover, deontological inclinations were uniquely related to empathic concern, perspective-taking, and religiosity, whereas utilitarian inclinations were uniquely related to need for cognition. Study 2 demonstrated that cognitive load selectively reduced utilitarian inclinations, with deontological inclinations being unaffected. In Study 3, a manipulation designed to enhance empathy increased deontological inclinations, with utilitarian inclinations being unaffected. These findings provide evidence for the independent contributions of deontological and utilitarian inclinations to moral judgments, resolving many theoretical ambiguities implied by previous research.

PMID:
23276267
DOI:
10.1037/a0031021
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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