Not All Who Ponder Count Costs: Arithmetic reflection predicts utilitarian tendencies, but logical reflection predicts both deontological and utilitarian tendencies

Cognition 192 (103995) (2019)
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Abstract

Conventional sacrificial moral dilemmas propose directly causing some harm to prevent greater harm. Theory suggests that accepting such actions (consistent with utilitarian philosophy) involves more reflective reasoning than rejecting such actions (consistent with deontological philosophy). However, past findings do not always replicate, confound different kinds of reflection, and employ conventional sacrificial dilemmas that treat utilitarian and deontological considerations as opposite. In two studies, we examined whether past findings would replicate when employing process dissociation to assess deontological and utilitarian inclinations independently. Findings suggested two categorically different impacts of reflection: measures of arithmetic reflection, such as the Cognitive Reflection Test, predicted only utilitarian, not deontological, response tendencies. However, measures of logical reflection, such as performance on logical syllogisms, positively predicted both utilitarian and deontological tendencies. These studies replicate some findings, clarify others, and reveal opportunity for additional nuance in dual process theorist’s claims about the link between reflection and dilemma judgments.

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Author Profiles

Paul Conway
University of Portsmouth
Nick Byrd
Stevens Institute of Technology

References found in this work

The Metaphysics of Morals.Immanuel Kant - 1797/1996 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Famine, Affluence, and Morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Oxford University Press USA.
Utilitarianism.J. S. Mill - 1861 - Oxford University Press UK.
Famine, Affluence, and Morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (3):229-243.

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