People making deontological judgments in the Trapdoor dilemma are perceived to be more prosocial in economic games than they actually are
16 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2017 Last revised: 20 May 2018
Date Written: December 15, 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. In line with previous studies, we identified deontological choices using the Trapdoor dilemma. Using economic games, we take two measures of general prosociality towards strangers: trustworthiness and altruism. Our results procure converging evidence for a perception gap according to which Trapdoor-deontologists are believed to be more trustworthy and more altruistic towards strangers than Trapdoor-consequentialists, but actually they are not so. These results show that deontological judgments are not universal, reliable signals of prosociality.
Keywords: deontology, consequentialism, altruism, trustworthiness, prosociality, moral dilemmas, economic games
JEL Classification: C70, C79, C90, C91, C92, D64, D70, D71, H41
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