Individual differences in responses to moral dilemmas

Date
2023-04-05
Authors
Luke, Dillon Mathew
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Abstract

Considerable research in moral psychology has provided evidence for disagreement in the resolution of moral dilemmas pitting the greater good against adherence to moral norms. One potential explanation for this disagreement lies in stable individual differences between people, which has been supported by past research suggesting that differences in moral-dilemma judgments are stable over time and related to individual differences in cognition, emotion, antisocial traits, and beliefs and attitudes. While past research is informative, traditional measurement of moral-dilemma judgment confounds the influence of several factors, rendering the meaning of disagreement in moral-dilemma judgments ambiguous. To address these limitations, the purpose of this dissertation was to provide more nuanced insights into disagreement in moral-dilemma judgments by using the CNI model of moral decision-making to separately quantify sensitivity to consequences, sensitivity to moral norms, and general preference for inaction versus action in responses to moral dilemmas. Across three lines of research, the current work examined (1) the temporal stability of individual differences in the three factors (Article 1) and (2) relations between individual differences in the three factors and basic personality traits (Article 1), political ideology (Article 2), and facet-level psychopathy (Article 3). Findings from Article 1 provided evidence for high stability in sensitivity to consequences and sensitivity to moral norms, which was comparable to that of the Big Five personality traits, but lower stability in general preference for inaction versus action. Findings across Articles 1-3 revealed an unexpectedly strong contribution of basic personality traits to disagreement through relations with all three factors (Article 1), an unexpectedly weak contribution of political ideology to disagreement through sensitivity to consequences (Article 2), and an expectedly strong contribution of interpersonal and affective psychopathic traits to disagreement through sensitivity to moral norms (Article 3). Together, these findings have important implications for theories of moral judgment and provide a novel theoretical framework for understanding disagreement in moral-dilemma judgments, which may be used to develop tailored interventions to reduce real-world disagreement.

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