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Utilitarian Moral Judgments Are Cognitively Too Demanding

Author

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  • Da Silva, Sergio
  • Matsushita, Raul
  • De Sousa, Maicon

Abstract

We evaluate utilitarian judgments under the dual-system approach of the mind. In the study, participants respond to a cognitive reflection test and five (sacrificial and greater good) dilemmas that pit utilitarian and non-utilitarian options against each other. There is judgment reversal across the dilemmas, a result that casts doubt in considering utilitarianism as a stable, ethical standard to evaluate the quality of moral judgments. In all the dilemmas, participants find the utilitarian judgment too demanding in terms of cognitive currency because it requires non-automatic, deliberative thinking. In turn, their moral intuitions related to the automatic mind are frame dependent, and thus can be either utilitarian or non-utilitarian. This suggests that automatic moral judgments are about descriptions, not about substance.

Suggested Citation

  • Da Silva, Sergio & Matsushita, Raul & De Sousa, Maicon, 2016. "Utilitarian Moral Judgments Are Cognitively Too Demanding," MPRA Paper 69387, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:69387
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    File URL: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/69387/1/MPRA_paper_69387.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Shane Frederick, 2005. "Cognitive Reflection and Decision Making," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(4), pages 25-42, Fall.
    2. Bentham, Jeremy, 1781. "An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number bentham1781.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Cognitive Reflection; Utilitarianism; Moral Judgments;

    JEL classification:

    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology

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