34 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2017 Last revised: 28 May 2017
Date Written: May 26, 2017
Why do people make deontological decisions, although they often lead to overall unfavorable outcomes? One account is receiving considerable attention: deontological judgments may signal commitment to prosociality and thus may increase people's chances of being selected as social partners --- which carries obvious long-term benefits. Here we test this framework by experimentally exploring whether people making deontological judgments are expected to be more prosocial than those making consequentialist judgments and whether they are actually so. We use two ways of identifying deontological choices. In a first set of three studies, we use a single moral dilemma whose consequentialist course of action requires a strong violation of Kant's practical imperative that humans should never be used solely as a mere means. In a second set of two studies, we use two moral dilemmas: one whose consequentialist course of action requires no violation of the practical imperative, and one whose consequentialist course of action requires a strong violation of the practical imperative; and we focus on people changing decision when passing from the former dilemma to the latter one, thereby revealing a strong reluctance to violate Kant's imperative. Using economic games, we take three measures of general prosociality towards strangers: trustworthiness, altruism, and cooperation. Our results procure converging evidence for a perception bias according to which people making deontological choices are believed to be more prosocial towards strangers than those making consequentialist choices, but actually they are not so. These results show that deontological judgments are not universal, reliable signals of prosociality.
Keywords: deontology, consequentialism, cooperation, altruism, trustworthiness, prosociality, moral dilemmas, economic games
JEL Classification: C70, C79, C90, C91, C92, D64, D70, D71, H41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Capraro, Valerio and Sippel, Jonathan and Zhao, Bonan and Hornischer, Levin and Savary, Morgan and Terzopoulou, Zoi and Faucher, Pierre and Griffioen, Simone F, Are Kantians Better Social Partners? People Making Deontological Judgments are Perceived to be More Prosocial than they Actually Are (May 26, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2905673 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2905673