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J Exp Psychol Gen. 2018 Jul;147(7):962-987. doi: 10.1037/xge0000368. Epub 2017 Sep 18.

Reasons probably won't change your mind: The role of reasons in revising moral decisions.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience.
2
Wake Forest School of Medicine.
3
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University.
4
Department of Philosophy.

Abstract

Although many philosophers argue that making and revising moral decisions ought to be a matter of deliberating over reasons, the extent to which the consideration of reasons informs people's moral decisions and prompts them to change their decisions remains unclear. Here, after making an initial decision in 2-option moral dilemmas, participants examined reasons for only the option initially chosen (affirming reasons), reasons for only the option not initially chosen (opposing reasons), or reasons for both options. Although participants were more likely to change their initial decisions when presented with only opposing reasons compared with only affirming reasons, these effect sizes were consistently small. After evaluating reasons, participants were significantly more likely not to change their initial decisions than to change them, regardless of the set of reasons they considered. The initial decision accounted for most of the variance in predicting the final decision, whereas the reasons evaluated accounted for a relatively small proportion of the variance in predicting the final decision. This resistance to changing moral decisions is at least partly attributable to a biased, motivated evaluation of the available reasons: participants rated the reasons supporting their initial decisions more favorably than the reasons opposing their initial decisions, regardless of the reported strategy used to make the initial decision. Overall, our results suggest that the consideration of reasons rarely induces people to change their initial decisions in moral dilemmas. (PsycINFO Database Record.

PMID:
28922001
DOI:
10.1037/xge0000368

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