The Costs and Benefits of Calculation and Moral Rules

Perspectives on Psychological Science, Forthcoming

59 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2009  

Will M. Bennis

Northwestern University - Department of Psychology

Douglas L. Medin

Northwestern University - Department of Psychology

Daniel M. Bartels

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 26, 2009

Abstract

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.

Keywords: decision making, cost-benefit analysis, moral rules, consequentialism, deontology, decision modes

Suggested Citation

Bennis, Will M. and Medin, Douglas L. and Bartels, Daniel M., The Costs and Benefits of Calculation and Moral Rules (August 26, 2009). Perspectives on Psychological Science, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1462467

Will M. Bennis (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Department of Psychology ( email )

Evanston, IL
United States

Douglas L. Medin

Northwestern University - Department of Psychology ( email )

Evanston, IL
United States

Daniel M. Bartels

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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