Reflection and Reasoning in Moral Judgment

Cognitive Science 36 (1):163-177 (2012)
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Abstract

While there is much evidence for the influence of automatic emotional responses on moral judgment, the roles of reflection and reasoning remain uncertain. In Experiment 1, we induced subjects to be more reflective by completing the Cognitive Reflection Test prior to responding to moral dilemmas. This manipulation increased utilitarian responding, as individuals who reflected more on the CRT made more utilitarian judgments. A follow-up study suggested that trait reflectiveness is also associated with increased utilitarian judgment. In Experiment 2, subjects considered a scenario involving incest between consenting adult siblings, a scenario known for eliciting emotionally driven condemnation that resists reasoned persuasion. Here, we manipulated two factors related to moral reasoning: argument strength and deliberation time. These factors interacted in a manner consistent with moral reasoning: A strong argument defending the incestuous behavior was more persuasive than a weak argument, but only when increased deliberation time encouraged subjects to reflect

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Joshua D. Greene
Harvard University