The Costs and Benefits of Calculation and Moral Rules
Will M. Bennis
Douglas L. Medin
Northwestern University - Department of Psychology
Daniel M. Bartels
University of Chicago - Booth School of Business
August 26, 2009
Perspectives on Psychological Science, Forthcoming
There has been a recent upsurge of research on moral judgment and decision making. One important issue with this body of work concerns the relative advantages of calculating costs and benefits versus adhering to moral rules. The general tenor of recent research suggests that (i) adherence to moral rules is associated with systematic biases, and (ii) systematic cost-benefit analysis is a normatively superior decision strategy. The current paper queries both the merits of cost-benefit analyses and the shortcomings of moral rules. We argue that outside the very narrow domain where consequences can be unambiguously anticipated, it is not at all clear that calculation processes optimize outcomes. In addition, there are good reasons to believe that following moral rules can lead to superior consequences in certain contexts. More generally, different modes of decision making can be seen as adaptations to particular environments.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 59
Keywords: decision making, cost-benefit analysis, moral rules, consequentialism, deontology, decision modes
Date posted: September 8, 2009
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