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Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2015 May;41(5):696-713. doi: 10.1177/0146167215575731.

Gender differences in responses to moral dilemmas: a process dissociation analysis.

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Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany.
University of Texas at Austin, USA.


The principle of deontology states that the morality of an action depends on its consistency with moral norms; the principle of utilitarianism implies that the morality of an action depends on its consequences. Previous research suggests that deontological judgments are shaped by affective processes, whereas utilitarian judgments are guided by cognitive processes. The current research used process dissociation (PD) to independently assess deontological and utilitarian inclinations in women and men. A meta-analytic re-analysis of 40 studies with 6,100 participants indicated that men showed a stronger preference for utilitarian over deontological judgments than women when the two principles implied conflicting decisions (d = 0.52). PD further revealed that women exhibited stronger deontological inclinations than men (d = 0.57), while men exhibited only slightly stronger utilitarian inclinations than women (d = 0.10). The findings suggest that gender differences in moral dilemma judgments are due to differences in affective responses to harm rather than cognitive evaluations of outcomes.


gender; meta-analysis; moral dilemmas; moral judgment; process dissociation

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