Cognition 166:314-327 (2017)

Authors
Joshua May
University of Alabama, Birmingham
Abstract
Experimental research suggests that people draw a moral distinction between bad outcomes brought about as a means versus a side effect (or byproduct). Such findings have informed multiple psychological and philosophical debates about moral cognition, including its computational structure, its sensitivity to the famous Doctrine of Double Effect, its reliability, and its status as a universal and innate mental module akin to universal grammar. But some studies have failed to replicate the means/byproduct effect especially in the absence of other factors, such as personal contact. So we aimed to determine how robust the means/byproduct effect is by conducting a meta-analysis of both published and unpublished studies (k = 101; 24,058 participants). We found that while there is an overall small difference between moral judgments of means and byproducts (standardized mean difference = 0.87, 95% CI 0.67 – 1.06; standardized mean change = 0.57, 95% CI 0.44 – 0.69; log odds ratio = 1.59, 95% CI 1.15 – 2.02), the mean effect size is primarily moderated by whether the outcome is brought about by personal contact, which typically involves the use of personal force.
Keywords trolley problem  moral dilemmas  linguistic analogy  instrumental dilemmas
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Reprint years 2017
DOI 10.1016/j.cognition.2017.05.027
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References found in this work BETA

Moral Dimensions: Permissibility, Meaning, Blame.Thomas Scanlon - 2008 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Person as Scientist, Person as Moralist.Joshua Knobe - 2010 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (4):315.

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Citations of this work BETA

Moral Reasoning and Emotion.Joshua May & Victor Kumar - 2018 - In Karen Jones, Mark Timmons & Aaron Zimmerman (eds.), Routledge Handbook on Moral Epistemology. Routledge. pp. 139-156.
Regard for Reason in the Moral Mind.Joshua May - 2018 - Oxford University Press.
How to Debunk Moral Beliefs.Victor Kumar & Joshua May - 2019 - In Jussi Suikkanen & Antti Kauppinen (eds.), Methodology and Moral Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 25-48.
The Limits of Emotion in Moral Judgment.Joshua May - 2018 - In Karen Jones & Francois Schroeter (eds.), The Many Moral Rationalisms. Oxford University Press. pp. 286-306.

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