Are Morally Motivated Decision Makers Insensitive to the Consequences of Their Choices?

5 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2011  

Daniel M. Bartels

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Douglas L. Medin

Northwestern University - Department of Psychology

Date Written: 2007

Abstract

Is morally motivated decision making different from other kinds of decision making? There is evidence that when people have sacred or protected values (PVs), they reject trade-offs for secular values (e.g., ‘‘You can’t put a price on a human life’’) and tend to employ deontological rather than consequentialist decision principles. People motivated by PVs appear to show quantity insensitivity. That is, in trade-off situations, they are less sensitive to the consequences of their choices than are people without PVs. The current study examined the relation between PVs and quantity insensitivity using two methods of preference assessment: In one design, previous results were replicated; in a second, PVs were related to increased quantity sensitivity. These and other findings call into question important presumed properties of PVs, suggesting that how PVs affect willingness to make tradeoffs depends on where attention is focused, a factor that varies substantially across contexts.

Suggested Citation

Bartels, Daniel M. and Medin, Douglas L., Are Morally Motivated Decision Makers Insensitive to the Consequences of Their Choices? (2007). Psychological Science, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp. 24-28, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1938504

Daniel M. Bartels (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Douglas L. Medin

Northwestern University - Department of Psychology ( email )

Evanston, IL
United States

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